Telling stories is one of the best things non-profits can do to build relationships with donors and other constituents. While it’s great to tell lots of stories, what we really want to do is tell stories that resonate with our target audience. The concept of resonance is something that we learn about in-depth during The Storytelling Non-Profit Master Class. Today, I thought I would share a few tips from the class to help you tell stories that resonate.
What Does it Mean to Tell Stories that Resonate?
To have something (a story, message, communication, etc) resonate with someone means that the reader is in agreement with what they read or saw. In fundraising, when someone agrees with something we said it is generally a good indicator that they plan to answer our call to action.
When something resonates with a donor, it general means that it is in alignment with a) their values, b) their beliefs, c) their world view, d) their interests, e) all the above or d) something else.
Three Steps to Telling Stories that Resonate
Now that you know a little more about what it means to tell a story that resonates with an audience, let’s look at 3 steps that will help us achieve our goal of resonance.
Step 1: Know Your Audience
This is the best piece of advice I feel I can give to non-profit organizations – know your audience. Understand their demographics, psychographics, their behavior, their goals, and so on. Understand all of this information so that you can speak to them in a targeted, influential way.
To get to know your audience better use surveys or focus groups to collect information. I like to ask questions that unearth demographics and psychographics, such as 1) Why do you give to our organization, 2) What do you like most about our work, 2) What age range do you fall into, and so on.
Want more information on audience research? Read: How To Do Research for Non-Profit Communications.
Step 2: Create an Audience Profile
Once you’ve collected relevant information about your audience, you need to turn all the data points into something useful. I recommend creating an audience profile (or more than one depending on your segmentation). Your audience profile is a mock up of a fictional audience member. You give them a name, picture, life story, demographic details (from your research), etc. The goal of creating this composite is to have a really clear picture of who you’re talking to.
Since working with a number of organizations on audience profiles, one of the things that I often see people get caught up on is having their profile accurately represent their entire audience. That’s not the best way to approach this. Ideally, you profile should represent the trends that you see emerging in the audience that you want to reach.
For more in-depth information on building audience profiles or personas, read How to Build an Audience Persona for Non-Profit Communications.
Step 3: Use What You Know About Your Audience to Develop Your Message and Story
Once you have an audience profile in place, you can use the profile as a filter for everything you create. You always want to ask the question, “Will this resonate with my target audience?” If the answer is not a firm yes, then start reworking things.
In the beginning of using your audience profile, you might feel like your just guessing. But with time and use, you will continue to build your knowledge about your audience to the point where you are a pro at writing for them.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Have you surveyed your donors or got to know them some other way? How has that information impacted your storytelling and fundraising work?
Linda Coplin says
How do you resonate with your audience if you only have 30 minutes on a live radio show to “tell a story, promote an event, bring awareness (and in this case, domestic and sexual violence) and seek support of your agency’s mission?
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
Hi Linda – That’s a wonderful question. Thanks for asking it! If I had 30 minutes to get a point across, I would try to get to know the audience well and then develop talking points around that information. The radio station probably has demographic information about their listeners. I would go to them and ask them to tell me more about their listeners.
Whenever you communicate, you want to answer the following question for your audience, “Why should I care?” It’s not an impossible question to answer. You just have to know a little about them.