Has your non-profit told stories? Are you trying to figure out how to get better results from the stories you tell? You’re in for a treat in this article as we’re going to talk about how to find your next best step in non-profit storytelling.
I always stress to clients and students that we want to avoid doing something just for the sake of doing it. We don’t want to tell stories just for the sake of telling stories. We don’t want to post on social media just for the sake of posting on social. For everything we put time and effort into, we want there to be intention and strategy. Today, I want to help get the most out of your non-profit storytelling efforts by helping you decide where to take your work next.
Non-Profit Storytelling: Your Next Best Step
To start, I want to give you an overview of how to figure out your non-profit’s next best step in storytelling. I’ve made this hand decision tree. You can grab a copy of it here if you want to print it.
Before you dive too far into this post, I want to add a disclaimer that this decision tree is not an exhaustive one. There are lots of elements in storytelling that you can tweak and test. But I could only fit so much on the decision tree so I focused on the most important elements of storytelling that will help you get the most traction!
The first and biggest factor in determining your next step is whether or not your non-profit has told stories. From there, I have a series of questions to help you figure out where to go next. Next I’m going to walk you through each side of the decision tree and provide you with some additional advice for your storytelling journey.
Your Non-Profit Has Not Told Stories Before
If your non-profit is just getting started with storytelling your next best step is to work on setting goals for storytelling. Goal setting is non-negotiable and it will bring focus to your non-profit’s storytelling work.
When it comes to setting a goal (or goals) for non-profit storytelling, here are some considerations:
- Storytelling is a tactic that supports your fundraising or communications strategy.
- When setting a goal for storytelling, clarify whether it is tactically supporting fundraising or communications.
- Next, flesh out how it is supporting fundraising or communications.
- Finally, make your goal measurable so you know whether or not you meet your goal.
Additional reading on goal setting you might find helpful.
Non-Profit Planning Series: Setting a Chief Initiative
Setting Non-Profit Communications Goals and Objectives
After You’ve Set a Storytelling Goal
Once you’ve set your goal for non-profit storytelling, you’ll get to work building out your foundation and storytelling systems. This includes:
- Audience research – Here’s my guide to audience research and how to build an audience persona for your storytelling work.
- Messaging – Messaging is important and yet often overlooked! Here’s my advice for creating key messages.
- Set up your story collecting system – Systems make it successful. Take the time to map out your story collecting system and start using it.
- Write your stories – Writing for non-profits is a learnable skill. Here’s some advice for writing stories with emotions and details.
- Share your stories – start getting your stories out into the world!
Your Non-Profit Has Told Stories Before
Let’s say your non-profit has told stories before. Determining your next best step is all about understanding what’s not working and rolling up your sleeves to fix it.
If you are telling stories and you’re getting your desired results from your efforts, way to go! I find that organizations in this phase of storytelling need to work on looking for low hanging fruit and quick wins. Your goal in this phase is to optimize your storytelling work. Here are a few tips for this phase:
- Look at the channels/appeals/campaigns that are generating the bulk of your results. Make a list of tests that you can run to see where else you can optimize.
- Ensure that you have a rock-solid system in place for collecting and organizing stories.
- Always be improving your writing 🙂
If your organization is telling stories but you aren’t getting your desired results, there are a few factors I like to take a deeper look at. First, start with your audience. What you know about them and how you apply that knowledge makes a huge difference. It is so useful to test your assumptions about your audience and keep collecting information about their preferences and behaviors.
For additional reading on audience research take a look at:
Guide to Audience Research for Non-Profits
How Little Communications Research Can Yield Big Results
You Are Not Your Audience
After revisiting what I know (or don’t know) about an audience, I turn towards the messaging in the stories. Messaging is the backbone of your stories and your campaigns. It needs to be clear, compelling and resonant. This is where you get into the weeds of message and content testing to find what’s sticky with your audience. This takes time and is ever evolving. But! It’s crucial work.
From there, I would keep focusing on your copywriting skills, especially if your storytelling program relies heavily on the written word. You can find a treasure trove of writing advice here.
I’d love to hear your takeaways from this article in the comments. What’s your next best step for non-profit storytelling?