Last week the great folks at Providence CityArts for Youth asked me if I had any blog posts on how to organize the stories that they collect—their story bank. Such a great question! Today I will answer it, and offer all of you some advice for making the most of your stories.
Your Story Bank
I’ve written several posts with tips for collecting stories – collecting stories from donors and collecting stories from staff. This is an on-going process and as you collect stories, it’s a great idea to start a Story Bank.
Your Story Bank is a central place where you record and keep all of your stories. My two favorite tools to create a Story Bank are a Google Doc or a Microsoft Word document. Yes, this is simple and maybe old school; there are many other technological tools for collecting and cataloguing information. But I like both of these tools because they allow you to easily search a document to find stories on a particular subject you are looking for. Sometimes the simplest approach is the best!
Tips for Organizing Your Stories
Once you have a number of stories collected, you will start to notice that it can be difficult to find what you are looking for in your Story Bank. The important stories can get buried and forgotten; the hours you spent interviewing and perfectly crafting that message could be wasted. This is a scenario we want to avoid!
When I think about organizing a Story Bank, there are two ways of categorizing stories that seem most useful:
- Organize by story type
- Organize by character
Story type: Catalogue stories based on what the story is about. Here are six common categories that I find useful to work with:
- Impact stories
- Organization history stories
- Needs stories,
- Vision stories,
- Stories about people
- Mission stories.
Character: Catalogue stories about a specific person or object. This will allow you to quickly find an example for a specific situation or goal. Here are a few categories of of character stories:
- Board Members
- Community Advocates
Whether you choose to organize your stories based on story type or character, think about the sub-categories that best describe the stories your organization needs to tell. This is how you will customize your Story Bank to make it as useful as possible.
As you add stories to your Story Bank, you can also leave notes or hyperlinks to other relevant documents that might contain interview notes, photos, or videos relating to that story. In this sense, your Story Bank becomes a general resource—the ultimate hub for all of your storytelling work.
Here is another useful organizational tip: create a reference page for your Story Bank at the beginning of the document. Every time you add a story into the Bank, write down the title, a short description of the story, and the page number where it begins.
I know that curating and collecting stories can tough work. By bringing in a little extra organization to your Story Bank, you will be able to make the most of it.
Thank you, Vanessa! Everything you write is so spot on and useful to my day to day work. On this month’s to-do list is “organize story bank and create an index,” so this post is perfect for me and my organization.
Vanessa Chase says
Hi Marie – I’m so glad to hear that this post was useful for you! Let me know how your organizing goes.
Barb Cooke says
So timely, we just talked about this in a meeting this morning.
Paula Harris, Greater Nonprofits says
Great Idea: I would add that word has a very under-utilized function – Bookmarking. By bookmarking your headings (and in this case your story types or character types), you can create a table of contents at the top of your document that links directly to that section or story.
Happy Story Telling!
Vanessa Chase says
Love that tip, Paula! I didn’t know about that I thought I was a real MS Word nerd.