Story interviews (or narrative interviews) are almost always necessary in order to tell a rich, interesting story. When you are able to talk to someone directly about a story, you can ask questions the help you gather key facts, details, and emotions to tell a compelling story. In turn, this provides you with much of the information you need to tell a great story. To get information that helps you tell a great non-profit story, you’ll need great storytelling interview questions.
For many of the non-profit professionals that I work with, story interviews are one of the most challenging aspects of storytelling. Many people will fret about asking the “right” questions. Others get very nervous talking to someone they don’t know very well. Sometimes, they also worry about what to do if the interview is not going well.
My best advice is to stay present and not let the worries take over. When you are present and engaged in the story interview, that’s when you’ll be attuned to the details and will be able to ask great questions.
Of course, it can also be helpful to come to the story interview prepared with some questions. You may not follow them exactly or even ask all of them, but they can be helpful guideposts during the interview. I typically like to prepare about 5 questions for interviews.
Today I thought I would share some examples of questions that I’ve asked during story interviews. Below are a mixed of the story interview questions that I’ve asked clients, volunteers, program staff, fundraising staff, executive directors, board members, and more. As you read through the questions, you’ll see that some apply to certain groups of people more than others. I hope that they inspire you!
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25 Storytelling Interview Questions for Non-Profits
- Tell me about what problem this program/service solves?
- Can you tell me about a specific person who has used this program?
- What was their life like before they began working with you?
- Do you remember the first time you met them? What was their emotional state like?
- Now that they’ve gone through this program, what’s their life like? What is their outlook for the future?
- With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support ___?
- What have you learned about ___?
- What was most surprising to you about ___?
- Is there are particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
- Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
- When did you first hear about ___?
- What attracted you to this cause?
- What inspires you?
- What was it like before ___?
- Why do you continue to support ___?
- How did you know when ____?
- What was the biggest challenge you were facing?
- What did you do to try to solve this challenge on your own?
- What would you say to someone considering ____?
- What do you think other people should know about this organization?
- How has this changed you?
- How did it feel when. . . ?
- Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
- Is there any question I should I have asked you, but did not?
There you have it. 25 storytelling interview questions to inspire your next story interview.
Extra Storytelling Interview Questions and Resources for You
As a bonus tip, here’s One Question to Avoid Asking During a Story Interview.
Want to improve your interview skills even further? Read: How to Conduct Better Story Interviews
Interested in telling donor stories? 7 Questions that will Help You Tell a Giving Story
Looking for more tips to find and collect great stories? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Collecting Non-Profit Stories.
Linda Grigg says
That’s a comprehensive list, Vanessa! I work for a social services organisation, but I also interview owners of small businesses as a hobby. I ask the same kind of question of both the NFP clients and the business owners: “What are your goals or dreams (for your family or business) now?”
One of the services we run is a residential therapeutic community for mothers who have experienced violence and addiction. They are generally referred to us by the state because of child protection concerns. So, often the mums come to us under duress. However by the time their stay has ended (normally after six months), most have learned so much about themselves and parenting that they have a totally different outlook on themselves, what it means to be a mum, and what their family life can be like. I sometimes ask them the question (when they are graduating): “If you could go back in time to when you entered this programme, what would you say to yourself?” Most of them answer with some variation of “You can do it. Stick with it. Good things are going to happen.” As the stories we base on these interviews (with the client’s permission) are used within the programme and for those preparing to come to us, It is a helpful question for drawing out statements which will encourage other mums who are in the same boat as they once were.
Doralin Fredericks says
One of my favorite interview questions I always include after talking about their current role and experiences – how do you feel valued in your place of employment
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
Great question, Doralin! I’ll definitely add that to my list.
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
I love your questions, too, Linda! Thanks for sharing them.
This is an incredible tool and the comments echo your message of furthering the non-profit, relationship fostering, storytelling process. We all want to be heard and seen and our contributions, big or small, recognized. Those on-going relationships are key. I’ve stumbled upon your blog and will be back to dig deeper.
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
I’m glad you found this helpful, Jessie! Good luck with your storytelling work.