Collecting stories is one of the top challenges that non-profits site when it comes to successful storytelling. For fundraising and communications professionals, this challenge persists because they are removed from program delivery and don’t have direct access to the stories. The solution to this problem is to proactively develop a story library so that you always have a number of stories at hand for fundraising and communications materials that you might be producing.
A story library is basically a term of a number of stories that you have stockpiled. They are stories that you developed and wrote with no particular project in mind. Rather you collected them with the hope of using them someday. The advantage of stockpiling stories is that you have already done some of the heavy-lifting for storytelling and can simply thumb through your options to find the best one. This is a great resource for newsletter content, email appeals, grant applications, social media posts, and more.
You can keep all of your stories in one Word document. You could set up a filing system to organizing them. You could also use a program like Evernote or OneNote to organize and maintain your story library. Choose a system that works best for you. It does not need to be fancy or overly complicated to get the job done.
5 Ways to Build a Story Library
#1 – Schedule a weekly time for story collecting
It may seem like a simple tip, but sometimes if it’s not in our calendars it is not going to happen. Commit to a weekly time – maybe 30 minutes or 1 hour – where you will focus on collecting stories to add to your library. During this time you could interview someone for a story, take a colleague out for coffee to talk about a program, volunteer in a program at your organization, or something else. The point is to get out from behind your desk and go to where the stories are.
#2 – Create “story time” at meetings
As the story champion at your organization, it’s your job to facilitate story time. Think about making the first 5 or 10 minutes of a meeting an opportunity for people to share stories. It could be success stories or even failure stories. You could also report back on how stories are being used and their outcomes. This is an opportunity to connect as well as an opportunity to identify new stories for your library.
#3 – Develop a story submission form
Make it as easy as possible for people to share their stories with you. This may include creating a digital or paper story submission form that people can fill out. This form will not have every single detail of the story. Rather it is just a starting point that allows you to follow up and book an interview. I’ve created a sample form using Google Forms so that you can see an example of this type of form.
#4 – Start an internal newsletter
Your organization probably has an external newsletter that you send to donors and other constituents, but what about internal communications? Having an organizational newsletter just for staff (or even volunteers) is a great way to keep people up to date on what matters. It’s also an opportunity for you to remind people about storytelling. Specifically, you can let others know what types of stories you are looking for and how they can share them.
#5 – Always keep an eye out and an ear open
Really our job as storytellers is to always be engaged in conversation and to see every conversation as an opportunity for storytelling. No matter who you are talking to or what you’re talking about, engage in the conversation. Be present, be curious, and ask questions.
Those are 5 ideas to help you build and grow your story library. I hope they give you some fresh inspiration for storytelling.
Do you currently do any of these things? Are there other things you do to collect stories? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.