Storytelling is a part of our cultural heritage and vital in any organization to transfer the passion
you have for your cause to the public, donors, volunteers, board members and staff.
Stories are important to us because:
- They communicate history
- They establish identity
- They share culture
- They aid memory
Universal themes will help you engage the listener so they keep listening.
Organizational Stories and Themes: Examples
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Mob at the Gates
Rot at the Top
Examples for a Nonprofit School
Government funding being cut for education
New legislation requires more time for testing and less time for other classes
Students’ families and friends get together to refurbish the auditorium for performances
Owner of property next door to school building large factory and trying to force school to move
Principal of school was once a student there and has come home to provide education for his hometown
How will you represent your organization? Most organizations have stories in each category. Which are the most compelling for your organization?
Classic Story Structure: “Introduce your hero, get him up a tree, throw rocks at him, throw more rocks at him and then get him out of the tree.” - Robert McKee, Screenwriting Guru
It's easier to convince a prospective donor to contribute if he or she can empathize with a character and be engaged by the story.
- Introduce Protagonist - Who are we following? It can be an individual or your organization.
- Inciting Incident - Importance of antagonism or the emotional dynamics. This is the "Problem Statement.
- Obstacles / Barriers - Why is it hard to fix the problem?
- Resolution / Success - Put the donor in the story
- Who you are
- What you do
- Why it matters
- How someone can help
Telling the Story:
- Determine your audience - Focus on who you can actually persuade to act
- Give your characters voice - Client quotes, Real people where possible
- Select communication vehicle -In person? Print? Radio? TV? Video?
- Pick presentation style - How formal do you need to be? Where will you be telling your story?
- Target desired response - What do you want them to do? Fall asleep? (bedtime story) Get angry? Volunteer? Change their mind? Give you money?
- Think about the epilogue and the sequel - What comes next? What will you talk about when you next meet?
Watch the videos of the nonprofit organizations whose stories were shared today.
The Hopi Education Endowment Fund's connection of History, Identity, Memory and Culture.
The "Classic Story Structure" in the campaign to build the Sanders Clinic; Sanders, Arizona.
Meet John H. Caskey, III the protagonist of the North Country HealthCare story.
Additional Storytelling tips and resources
Storytelling as Best Practice - Ten Tips for Storytellers by Terrence E. McNally
1. Stories are about people. (And people have names – even if you have to make them up.) Instinctively, your audience will want to know whom they will be following on this particular journey, and they also will want a mental picture of that person, so it helps to provide at least a few physical details.
2. One or more of the people in your story has to want something: to do something, to change something, to get something. A story doesn’t really get started until the audience knows what the goal is and has a reason to care whether or not it is attained.
3. Stories need to be fixed in time and space. Audiences don’t need every detail, but they want to know: was this last week or 10 years ago? Are we on a street corner in Boston, a Wal-Mart in Iowa, or somewhere else?
4. While people in a story pursue a goal, they tend to talk. Direct quotes let the audience hear your characters’ unique voices, bring the audience into action (which is precisely where you want them), and lend urgency to storytelling.
5. Audiences bore easily. Your story has to make them wonder, “What happens next?” or “How is this going to turn out?” As people in your story pursue their goal, they have to run into obstacles, surprises, or something that makes the audience sit up and take notice.
6. Stories speak the audience’s language. They are colorful (thanks to telling details), concise, and clearly understandable.
7. Stories stir up emotions. Human beings (which should comprise the majority of your audience) will not think about things they do not care about. So you have to make them care before you can get them to think about your issue. That’s the test your story has to meet.
8. Stories don’t tell: they show. Intellectually, your audience will understand a sentence such as, “She felt hostility from the family.” But when you write, “The family wouldn’t look her in the eye,” your audience will see the moment and feel the family’s anger.
9. Stories have clear meaning. When the curtain comes down, your audiences should know why exactly they took this journey with you.
10. Stories are containers of truth. At their essence, the best stories are about how we should treat ourselves, how we should treat other people, or how we should treat the world around us.
Resources for Further Learning
Storytelling as Best Practice By Andy Goodman, available at agoodmanonline.com
Free Range Thinking A free monthly newsletter by Andy Goodman, available at agoodmanonline.com
The Triumph of Narrative by Robert Fulford “Story telling is an attempt to deal with and at least partly contain the terrifyingly haphazard quality of life.”
The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge “I realize that…many otherwise competent managers in leadership positions were not leaders of the same ilk precisely because they saw no larger story.”
The Story Factor by Annette Simmons “In a complex environment, people listen to whomever makes the most sense – whomever tells the best story. Facts don’t have the power to change someone’s story. Your goal is to introduce a new story that will let your facts in.”
Storytelling in Organizations by Yiannis Gabriel “In [a business] environment, amidst the noisy din of facts, numbers, and images, the delicate, time-consuming discourse of storytelling is easily ignored or silenced. Few organizations are spontaneous storytelling cultures.”
Storytelling for Grantseekers: The Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising by Cheryl A Clarke
All Marketers are Liars: The power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World by Seth Godin
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screen writing by Robert McKee
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting; a step-by-step guide from concept to finished script by Syd Field.
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