As a consultant specializing in Non-Profit Storytelling, fundraising, and communications, author of The Storytelling Non-Profit: A practical guide to telling stories that raise money and awareness, and the creator of immersive online training programs for non-profit professionals, I have lots of examples of non-profit storytelling to share with you.
I have analyzed and written many non-profit storytelling case studies, conducted interviews with non-profit organizations and gathered lots of information and non-profit storytelling examples.
The Storytelling Non-Profit blog has been running since 2013, and ever since, I have published over 400 blog posts. I would like to share with you 20 examples of non-profit storytelling that have raised money and awareness for great causes.
Example #1: How to tell Stories like Charity Water
In this video, I explain about the importance of not only focusing on Storytelling but to follow a narrative. And I describe how Charity Water does this process by constantly showcasing what they do, why they do it, and the theory of change behind it. Watch this video and discover 5 tips that will be useful to tell Stories like Charity Water does.
Example #2: How New Directions Youth and Family Services Uses Stories in Their Donor Newsletter
Newsletters are key when following a proper communication plan with your donors. I had an interview with Jeff Mendola, Director of Mission Advancement at New Directions Youth and Family Services. In an Email Exchange with Jeff, he tells me about the great impact that Segmented Storytelling had in their Newsletters when they were sent to their donors.
He tells us that when he was hired by the New Directions Organization, he had to revive the organization’s fundraising. However, despite all the Newsletters efforts, he wasn’t getting the right results. What happened was that the name of the organization had changed from Wyndham Lawn Home and the Randolph Children’s Home, to the New Directions name, and the recipients were not recognizing the organization.
In order to tackle this issue, he decided to produce two different newsletters rather than only one. And he also identified 2 lists of donors by differentiating them from the Wyndham supporters and the Randolph ones. Using different stories to the different target audiences. For this non-profit storytelling example, I invite you to read the full interview with Jeff.
He mentions “When you use vague terms rather than specific stories, you open yourself up to the donor’s bias and prior perceptions – rather than what you are really trying to convey.”
*You can also read 5 Charity Newsletters to learn from.
Example #3: How Indiana University Created a Staff and Faculty Campaign
If you work in high education fundraising, you’re probably familiar with staff and faculty campaigns. Today we’ve got a great example of a staff giving campaign in action from Indiana University Northwest. Using storytelling, videos, events and surprise and delight, they created a comprehensive and successful staff giving campaign.
As the campaign progressed, new videos were released leading up to the official campaign kick-off event. I invite you to read this case study on the Indiana University Northwest fundraising campaign.
Example #4: Reporting Impact – How Ecojustice Uses Stories to Share Donor Impact
I had the opportunity to interview Ecojustice, the Canadian largest environmental law charity, and discuss their Victory Reports and share a few insights on storytelling.
Because accountability and transparency are vital to any fundraising campaign, it is really important to share results and relevant data with the donors. As an example, Ecojustice reports the amount of funds they raise and how much they have spent while operating.
Ecojustice mentions “We wanted to show supporters how their gifts made an impact while incorporating striking wilderness and wildlife visuals. The short stories we tell highlight our legal victories – on behalf of all Canadians – for our air, water, land and wildlife.”
Wondering how Ecojustice uses stories when reporting impact? Click here.
Example #5: Multimedia Storytelling – An Interview with Waves for Development
Waves Lobitos is an organization formed by Peruvian and International surfers that shared the desire to build consciousness into the surf travel experience, and empowering local surf communities.
Dave Aabo, from WAVES for Development, is a reader of The Storytelling Non-Profit blog and shared with us the process behind the storytelling using a multimedia format. By sharing the story of one of their volunteers, Jonno Durrant, a producer and cinematographer that got involved with the WAVES project and helped them capture and edit heartwarming stories of the kids from the Lobitos community.
You can see the “behind the scenes” from Jonno Durrant’s experience, when working with WAVES, through a variety of mediums including written words, pictures and audio, shared on their website.
By sharing one of their volunteers’ experience, they can captivate more volunteers to participate in their project. This is a great Multimedia Non-Profit Storytelling example, click here to read the full interview with Aabo.
Example #6: Using Stories to Bring People Together – United Way of Greater Portland
The interview with United Way of Greater Portland has been divided into 2 blog posts. I invite you to read them both on how they used storytelling to create engaging pieces.
United Way of Greater Portland created the LIVE UNITED storytelling library (LUbrary) in 2011 to create and share stories that bring people together and distill the issues affecting their communities. It is a resource for the community, funded by the community.
In this part 1 of the interview with Jessica Esch, she shares her tips and insights for digital storytelling. She tells us “Sometimes our stories are big and formal, and sometimes they are short and sweet. But they always strive to convey the positive feeling that we’re better together and that improving the Common Good takes all of us.”
And shares with us a video from the Common Good campaign. Full interview Part 1.
For more Digital non-profit storytelling examples, we continue with part 2, of our two part interview series with United Way of Greater Portland. In this part 2, we have the opportunity to speak with Suzi Piker.
Suzi shares with us few tips on the process to bringing a story to life. She shares with us “I do not walk into an interview with a firm set of questions. I do sometimes have a “cheat sheet” that I can quickly scan for reference but I definitely do not have a strict outline to cover other than general topics. It takes a bit of practice and patience to learn what rabbit holes to travel but I try to stay in the moment and be present and to follow the other person’s lead by listening and watching their behavior – what makes them lean in, tick, pause and light up.”
Do you want to know, what are her top 3 tips for conducting a video interview? Read the full interview and be surprised.
Example #7: How Catholic Volunteer Network Curates Amazing Stories Online
Stories are a type of content that can help explain your organization’s work and also humanizes the organization. When speaking of non-profit storytelling examples, we have to mention the Catholic Volunteer Network.
Larissa Dalton Stephanoff from Catholic Volunteer network shares with us how she manages their outstanding blog by consistently sharing great volunteer stories. You will find within this interview, with her, the work that the staff and volunteers do to regularly collect their stories.
She also gives us 4 tips for non-profits that want to curate their stories on a blog or other social media. These are:
- Have the right administrators or staff to support a blog
- Consider taking the right time when managing a blog or other social media
- Be creative always!
- Be consistent, find a schedule and follow through
Example #8: Getting Your Community to Share Their Stories – Lessons from the Catalogue of Philanthropy
Catalogue for Philanthropy decided that they wanted to bring their community together through an innovative storytelling social media initiative called #whatsupwednesday. I had the opportunity to speak with Aline Newman, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Catalogue for Philanthropy, and she tells us about their project.
In the Q&A with Catalogue for Philanthropy, Aline tells us the motivation behind #whatsupwednesday. She mentions “On November 2021, we wanted a way to keep people informed about the everyday work that our charities do during the other 11 months of the year. We created #whatsupwednesday as a social storytelling platform that our network of more than 300 charities can use to promote their cause and engage audiences on a regular basis.”
Each Wednesday, the Catalogue of Philanthropy would invite other charities to share with them either photos or videos highlighting any activity they would do. Activities could go from achieving a major organizational milestone or welcoming a new staff member.
If you’re wondering about the results, I can say that it was a success. Besides getting positive feedback and support from other charities, the metrics spoke by themselves.
- 20% increase in blog visitors on #whatsupwednesday
- An increase in time spent on our blog (the average #whatsupwednesday blog visitor spends 2.5 minutes on our site, which is a 187% increase vs. other blog posts during the same time period)
- A steady increase in followers and engagement on Facebook and Twitter (posts for #whatsupwednesday are among the most clicked/liked in 2014).
Aline also shares with us interesting tips when it comes to online community building initiatives. I invite you to read the full interview to learn more about this non-profit storytelling example.
Example #9: How Libraries Can Tell Stories – Lessons from the Kent District Library
When talking about non-profit storytelling examples, we can’t miss the wonderful stories shared by the Kent District Library.
There are a lot of causes and organizations out there that feel like they don’t have any stories to tell. Libraries are one of those organizations that frequently struggle to create stories that engage their community and ultimately lead to donations.
In an interview with Morgan Jarema, from Kent District Library tells us how she helped tell library patrons’ stories.
Being a reporter herself, Morgan believes that everyone has a story to tell. So she decided to interview the patrons and tell their stories online. When writing these stories, everyone was more than willing to have their full names used, which gave a huge credibility boost that really puts a face on advocacy.
Morgan shares with us 3 top tips when interviewing someone:
- Have a conversation
- Keep quiet and let them talk
- You’re sharing stories, not telling them
Example #10: Learn from Furniture Bank – How Great Stories Make for Great Content
Furniture Bank transfers gently used furniture and household goods donated by individuals or corporations to people who are in need of a fresh start. Communications and Fundraising Coordinator, Noah Kravitz, gives us the inside scoop on telling great stories.
Noah tells us how she uses stories to help people understand what Furniture Bank does: “Our stories are meant to educate our donors (current and prospective) on exactly what happens with their donated furniture after it has been donated to Furniture Bank (redistributed to refugees and new immigrants to Canada, women and children coming out of abusive situations and the formerly homeless).”
The objective of sharing stories is to inspire community members to donate furniture and/or join our volunteer team. And here are some of these storytelling examples:
Volunteering at Furniture Bank:
Inspiring Community Members to keep donating furniture:
Click here for the full interview with Noah, where she also gives us some important tips regarding navigating client confidentiality and content strategy.
Example #11: Want to Tell Volunteer Stories? Here How the Causeway Foundation Does It
We can learn more about non-profit storytelling examples, by analyzing how the Causeway Foundation tells their volunteer stories. Full study case here.
Some recommendations Juliana gives:
- Go to the source: Get a much fuller story and maybe some photography
- The story you tell should make readers think: “What could I do to help?”
Example #12: Learn from WAVAW – Navigating Confidentiality and Using Stories in Campaigns
Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) is a rape crisis center in Vancouver. They pride themselves on taking a feminist approach to women’s services and looking at violence as a systemic, cultural issue.
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “How can we tell stories if client confidentiality is a concern for our organization?” I believe that there are numerous ways to navigate this situation and in this interview with WAVAW, we’re going to hear from an organization who has not only navigated issues of confidentiality, they’ve gone on to tell great stories.
When asking them for tips on dealing with confidentiality and dignity when sharing their stories, they say: “I think what’s unique about WAVAW is that each WAVAW staff women, from Counsellors to the Volunteer Coordinator, appreciate and value our donors. And as such all WAVAW staff women understand the importance of fundraising; we all know that our doors remain open because of donors. I think this is so important in organizations if you want the Fund Development team to succeed in connecting your work with your donors.”
I invite you to read the full article on WAVAW in order to know the process that they follow, when sharing powerful stories while keeping the subject’s confidentiality and dignity.
Example #13: Learn from North York Community House – Starting a Digital Storytelling Project
Another non-profit storytelling example and in a digital form, we can learn from is North York Community House.
Here’s an example of a digital story that one of the North York Community House participants created to explain their personal struggle with mental health.
The Digital Storytelling Program at North York Community House facilitates story creating workshops with many different age groups and communities. One of our most successful partnerships has been with secondary schools in the TDSB. Digital Stories are created in facilitated workshops that can consist of up to 10 participants and be completed over 3-5 days.
When asking North York Community House how has this project influenced the organization? They reply “Digital Storytelling has given NYCH a unique tool to capture these stories and experiences. NYCH staff is able to connect to issues immediately by watching a digital story explaining it first hand, rather than reading about it.”
For the full Study Case and valuable tips on digital storytelling, read the full blog here.
Example #14: How Ballet BC Tells Stories in Their Newsletters
Alice Ko, who manages Digital Media for Ballet BC, agreed to an interview with me and to tell us how she’s incorporated stories into the Ballet BC newsletter, including a “Meet the Dancers” feature each month.
Ballet BC decided to incorporate a section within their Newsletters called” Meet the Dancers”. Alice explains: “Having a feature such as “Meet the Dancers” allows our audiences to have a human connection with the artists they see on stage. By building a relationship between our supporters and the dancers, we find our patrons are able to identify with our end product and our performances that much more.”
I invite you to read the full interview with Alice from Ballet BC and discover what her insights on Storytelling are.
Example #15: This is how to run a non-profit crowd-funding campaign
There’s nothing I love more than seeing a great non-profit fundraising campaign in action. I thought I would share another great non-profit storytelling example, and my favorite one, with you – the Write On crowd-funding campaign.
Write On was a National campaign that was created to encourage people to write a hand-written note every day for 30 days to promote joy, creativity, expression, and connection through hand-written correspondence.
In addition to this story, there is the on-going narrative of the campaign and that happens through the follow up since I’ve made a gift.
As you can see in the video they created for the Campaign, they already tell you how it all began and who they are. Since I made a gift to the campaign, I received about 6 updates about the campaigns.
Now this wouldn’t work for a traditional fundraising campaign because there’s not the sense of immediacy or urgency that comes with the momentum of a crowd-funding campaign. These updates have been about 1) how the campaign is going, 2) new goals, and 3) other good news.
If you would like to know what the benefits behind these updates sent out were, I invite you to read the full blog entry.
Example #16: Like Cutting an Onion. How One Organization Used Video to Tell an Inspiring Story
Storytelling through videos can create a better impact when it comes to keeping the viewer engaged with the cause.
The non-profit organization Humane Society of Silicon Valley, created a series of emotional stories on how the adoption of an animal changed their lives but also, and especially it changed people’s lives.
I invite you to watch the story of Eric and Peety, a mutual rescue film.
Example #17: How World MS Day Empowers People through Stories
After sharing a personal story about my mom and Multiple Sclerosis not too long ago, I thought it would be fitting to share an excellent email that I recently received from World MS Day. MS affects approximately 2.5 million people around the world. World MS Day is May 28 and in celebration and support of it the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation has created the “My Wish One Day” campaign.
Even a microsite was created especially for the campaign, called WorldMSDay where people can enter their one day wish and then share them all on the website as storytelling. You can bet I entered mine and you can read my wish in this post.
Example #18: 5 Nonprofit Newsletters to Learn From
Email campaigns and newsletters are an essential communication tool. These newsletters have the ability to inspire, connect and raise money. There’s also a planning behind the creation of a newsletter in order to get the right results.
In this blog entry, I have gathered 5 Charity Newsletters Examples. Where I speak about the following organizations:
- NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION
- CHRISTIAN BLIND MISSION UK
In the video below, I have created a FREE tutorial for you on how to raise money from your non-profit’s newsletter.
Example #19: Campaign Inspiration: F*ck Cancer
Every so often, I come across a non-profit who has just nailed their online presence and is a force to be reckoned with. F*ck Cancer is that organization. Everything about them is untraditional when it comes to non-profit work, and it’s working!
F*ck Cancer has created such a massive social media movement directed to their targeted audience with the work along their partnerships.
Example #20: 5 Organizations Who Rock at Storytelling on Social Media
When doing Storytelling through social media, we have to think about connecting more than raising money. These online platforms allow our organizations to reach larger audiences. In order to connect with your audience I suggest you ask yourself one question: What do I want my audience to feel?
I invite you to read the full study case I have worked on the following 5 non-profit organizations that tell great stories through social media and the name of the platforms they use:
– Humane Society of New York / Pinterest
– Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) / Twitter & Facebook
– Room to Read / Youtube
– North York Community House / Youtube
– Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation / Twitter
TAKEAWAYS FROM THESE NON-PROFIT STORYTELLING EXAMPLES:
Throughout all of the examples above, we can see that these case studies have some strategies in common. I have gathered some tips for you to remember when implementing Storytelling for your Non-Profit Organization.
- Tip #1: Think Narrative, not just Story
- Tip #2: Emotions and Details make stories memorable
- Tip #3: Invite your community to share their stories and participate in the narrative
- Tip #4: Have a clear Problem and a clear Protagonist
- Tip #5: Clear Theory of change
We are always looking to add to our interview and case study series. If you’d like to submit one of your organization’s stories, contact us here.