Storytelling can be an endeavor that takes a lot of time and resources. For non-profits that are small shops or that are strapped for time or resources, this can be a big barrier to telling their stories. Today, I want to share a few tips to help organizations in this position ensure that their powerful stories get told. These tips all come from my experiences as a fundraiser and I hope they help you!
Block Your Time
This is the single best time management tip that I can share. It has transformed my work in the last few years and it’s one that I talk more about in The Storytelling Non-Profit Master Class.
My one and only secret to getting things done is to schedule recurring blocks of time to focus on that task. (Click to Tweet)
When I was a Development Officer, I used to schedule 2-1 hour blocks of time in my calendar each week to make thank you phone calls to donors. This worked really well for me as it was always in my calendar and ensured that no one tried to schedule meetings with me during that time. I applied this same concept to storytelling. I had 1 dedicated hour each week where I would get out of my office and talk to people in other departments. I would take my coffee and a notebook and circulate around. This gave me a chance to find out what was happening around the organization and often lead to story leads.
Recycle and Reuse
You don’t have to have a massive volume of stories to be successful at it. In fact, it often only takes one great story. This is a mistake that I often see people make when it comes to storytelling. They take an “all or nothing,” whereby if they don’t have lots of stories to tell, they choose to tell none.
What you can do instead is focus on recycling and reusing one (or maybe two) stories. You can tell them across different platforms and from different perspectives. Chances are if you used a story in a direct mail appeal, you probably didn’t share every last detail. Use your other platforms such as social media and email to tell the story again and with new details.
I often get asked if donors will get “bored” hearing the same story over and over again. The answer to this is no. (Click to Tweet)
Social media is a loud, constantly changing environment. Just because you posted something once does not mean that everyone will see it. This is why it is advantageous to post multiple times and in different places – it will increase your exposure.
Focus On Doing One Channel Really Well
Now if the recycle and reuse strategy is not your cup of tea, this one will be. The opposite of recycle and reuse is to focus on one channel and do it outstandingly well. To do this, you’ll want to pick one channel (ie email, Facebook, Snapchat, etc) where you are most likely to reach your target audience. You may want to talk to donors and find out where they like to spend their time. This will help you maximize your return on investment.
The reason why I suggest this as a storytelling strategy is that one of the cardinal mistakes non-profits often make is trying to use all possible channels, but only putting in a half-baked effort on each of them. It takes time to create quality content (trust me, I know!), which is why it is often smarter to focus your efforts on one channel. (Click to Tweet)
Once you’ve picked a channel to focus on, make it a point to be consistent.
Do More of What Works
Sometimes we approach storytelling and content creation by just throwing stuff out there and hoping it sticks. We try all the latest tricks and have the mindset that more is better. The fact of the matter is about 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts (see: Pareto Principle). But we often do not take pause to figure out what that 20% is that is getting us the bulk of our results.
So if you’re strapped for time or resources, the best thing you can do is cut down your to-do list. Figure out what that 20% is that is getting you the bulk of your current results and forget the rest. Continuing to master and improve that 20% is a much better use of your time.
Those are 4 strategies that I use with my non-profit clients and they are also things I do in my business. I’m a one-woman show and it often means that I have to figure out how to be as effective as I can be with the limited time and resources I have.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What strategies or tips do you have to help you get more done?
Nico P says
I think a lot of non-profits exist in countries in which the typical donors and the people are not speaking the same language. Getting hte local staff the necessary tools to tell stories is paramount. These tools include recognizing a story, conducting interviews, photography and properly formatting and writing, among others. But how to do that when the budget is tight? One option is to bring in a storytelling workshop facilitator that can really coach staff into telling the project’s stories. Thanks for the post!
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
Hi Nico – Thank you so much for your comment. You made a great observation about a unique challenge that many organizations face – especially those working in international development.
In terms of training staff on a budget, you could use a digital platform such a webinar or a Google Hangout to do information sharing. I would collect information that’s been helpful from books, websites, and other resources to put together a 30 to 60 minute training. I would cover 1) what is storytelling, 2) how to recognize stories and 3) how to share stories within the organization.
Giving Times says
Thanks for these great tips, we will be sharing across our social media accounts and hope they can help the non-profits that follow us.
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
Thanks, Giving Times! I’m glad you enjoyed this post.