Stories can connect with people’s hearts, minds, and spirits in a way for which no other form of communication can. We are hard-wired not only to respond to stories but also to remember them better than any other form of communication.
Stories are an incredible tool for non-profits, since they can be used as a way to raise money, mobilize volunteers, or create trust. This is especially true for non-profits, since they are in a sense ‘selling’ stories that change the world.
Stories influence people
Humans are wired to remember stories. Research has shown, for example, that stories prompt us to empathize with someone else.
For example, imagine someone telling you a story about a child who had their leg caught in a mousetrap. And then imagine yourself as the child in the story. Wouldn’t it make you cry to think about how someone else would feel in your place?
Research also suggests that we can process just 60-75% of what is presented to us in a story (this explains why reading data charts can seem so completely dry!).
Stories tap into what’s meaningful
We love stories for their ability to make us laugh, feel warm and fuzzy, or even cry. However, there’s another reason why stories are so powerful in your organization – they help you create more meaningful, caring relationships with your donors and volunteers.
Storytelling brings out the very best in your followers. It draws them in and enriches their lives.
The more you tell stories, the more the relationship with your donors and volunteers evolve.
There’s one key ingredient in all of this, though. Building relationships is hard. Making your donor and volunteer feel like they matter is even harder. How do you tell them their story in an authentic and empathetic way, so that they feel understood?
Stories are memorable
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a good reason why storytelling should be a part of your non-profit’s playbook.
Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf?
If it’s something that hasn’t been happening often, why should anyone care? But if it has been happening often, then everyone needs to hear about it, especially the potential donor or volunteer.
The boy in the story, of course, was recounting the same events over and over in order to get the attention and help of his community. But if they’ve heard the story so many times, then everyone would probably be wary of a situation they thought they could handle themselves. This lack of trust is an incredible reason why that story is so powerful.
If you know the right story and keep the listener engrossed and excited, they’re more likely to remember the message, and react.
How people remember a message is largely due to the emotions it evokes.
If you can engage your audience emotionally, with a positive, inspiring story, it’s more likely to stick in their minds than a fact-heavy message.
You can generate a lot of great stories. People love stories. But you can get a lot more out of them if you ask them to do something and make it an action-related story. If they have a chance to do something, and are told they can in a positive context, they’ll do it.
Tell a story that your members can do something about.
Make the story their responsibility.
Everyone wants to feel in control of their own life and decisions.
Stories are persuasive
By definition, a story is a string of thoughts and actions that a person or group of people take together to tell an ongoing saga.
We humans are generally more inclined to give money when we are being invited to contribute.
The invitation comes in the form of an anecdote about a new employee who joined the team to share his story of the impact that the organization has had in his life and his neighbors’ lives.
When the story of the people or the organization is good, the donation is more likely to be forthcoming. But donors aren’t the only beneficiaries of stories. As you’ve probably experienced yourself, you can get more out of your public relations messaging if you have a ‘story’ to tell.
Stories for non-profits
But how can your non-profit really benefit from storytelling, and if you want your story to resonate with the public? It needs to be personal.
Here are 2 reasons that your non-profit needs to tell stories:
- Personal Connection
The essence of stories is that they create and maintain a bond between two people, be it a friend or your donors or your followers. Stories are about a relationship. This is why, to tap into this powerful tool for public persuasion and to create an emotional connection with your audience, you need to tell stories that have a personal connection.
There’s a reason that the best and most engaging storytelling content of all time is in photos. Visuals convey much more than words do. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
Storytelling is a non-profit’s best fundraising tool for donations and participation
People are sharing $9B in new funding each year on Instagram alone.
The app, Instagram, launched in 2010 and now boasts more than 500M active monthly users. Of these, a surprising 81% of young adult app users are 18-29 years old and 45% are female. Over the years, they have begun sharing pictures and stories on the app.
After seeing Instagram’s fast growth, Zynga (maker of FarmVille) launched an app called FarmVille. FarmVille was built on a social gaming platform by Zynga . Users connect to Zynga.com from their own profiles. The app also has a function that allows users to connect with people they know on Facebook. Strange, right? But there’s money to be made there, and people are willing to pay.
If you have ever worked with an organization who is fighting for social good, you will know just how rare it is that you will meet a non-profit that does not have an email list or rely on their social media presence to reach its community.
If you have ever watched a performance by a professional opera singer, you know that for this kind of performer (or any kind of artist) telling a story is what they live for.
Stories are what move them and transform them; they bring out their passions and emotions.
This is exactly why storytelling is a non-profit’s best fundraising tool for donations and participation.
Did you know that, according to the TedTalks team, stories have the power to elicit reactions from audiences?
Storytelling is a non-profit’s best marketing tool
Here’s just one example – when a picture is worth a thousand words, why not use a story to tell a thousand dollars?
If you ask for money on Facebook and they see that you use stories, they’ll be much more likely to donate. Here are the Top 5 Reasons your non-profit should use storytelling:
- People love stories and the impact they can have on their lives.
- You know how powerful our stories can be and why we can’t forget them.
- Your story can build your brand and your company’s reputation in an important and strategic way.
- You can tell a story about something that’s important to your customers, your community, your cause, and your organization.
- Storytelling is an effective and engaging way to connect with people in a meaningful way and build community.
Storytelling is a non-profit’s best tool for raising awareness
In other words, non-profits could not exist today without stories.
They need stories to change the world, to build trust and create connections with individuals.
- To create change Stories provide an incredible opportunity to teach, motivate, encourage and empower people to change.
- Stories are not inherently educational, but many of them are.
- They motivate people to take action, to move from one place to another and to do something different.
- Stories open our minds to new perspectives and different ways of thinking. This opens our minds to new possibilities, which are usually full of creative solutions.
- Storytelling can be used for branding.
So, to wrap this up…
One of the more incredible things about stories is that most of them don’t make sense to us until we hear them in our own words.
It’s why it can be really important for non-profits to tell their stories in their own words, using language that makes sense to them.
Remember the words of Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” He is talking about creating good stories.
Storytelling is nothing new. It is a very old practice used to invoke emotion, affect people, attract attention, and create connections with those around you. And using this tool in your non-profit is a great way to strengthen your brand, develop customer loyalty, and increase brand recognition – all of which are also very important for fundraising and reputation.
So don’t be intimidated by the thought of telling stories, I promise you it is a skill that everyone can learn and perfect over time.
I hope you enjoyed this podcast on storytelling and that it will inspire you to come up with new and exciting ways to tell your story.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and I’m looking forward to having you listen to the next ones that we’ve got coming up. If you’ve enjoyed this episode please leave feedback on iTunes or wherever you listen to this podcast, I’d love to hear your feedback and it would also help others find the show.
Be sure to check out the show notes for the episode, head over to wowdigital.com, click on podcast, and search for this episode number and you’ll find all the links, details, and other information that has been discussed in this episode.