This is the third post in a special 12-part monthly series — Powerful Nonprofit Stories: Finding, Framing, and Finishing. Check out part 1 and part 2 of this series.
The One Tip You Need to Uncover Story Leads
I hear it all the time from nonprofits: We want to tell good stories. But we don’t know where to find them, and we don’t have time to look.
In an ideal world, you’d have a surfeit of stories — and your only quandary would be where to slot them in your marketing calendar. Reality is much different. Stories are hard to find. Good stories — powerful stories that break hearts and spur donors into action — those are rarer gems yet. But they’re worth taking the time to find.
Storytelling research (your brain on stories, basically) tells us that listening to or reading stories engages more of the brain than passively receiving information about statistics or facts. More brain engagement means better information retention. It can also release hormones that make us feel good. If you think about it, storytelling is really positive reinforcement — a reward for the brain.
So who are the folks reading your stories? If you want them to do something — take action, engage, volunteer, give, and feel good — stories are the way to go. But first you need the story leads.
Here’s the one easy tip you need to help you uncover those:
Look to the onion.
That might sound odd, but it’s true. Think of your organization as an onion. It’s made up of many layers of people — administrative, program folks, staff on the front lines, volunteers, advisory boards, people helped, donors, etc.
Those are layers that all house potential story leads!
For example, administrative staff may not think they have a good story to share. But they do (they just don’t know it). And, like an onion, you’ll have to peel the layers a little deeper to help them discover what that story is. Maybe it was something they witnessed or overheard in passing. Maybe they volunteered for an event and discovered more about what their nonprofit does than they ever did by sitting in the office. That’s story gold!
Advisory board or committee members are also terrific people to ping. Like donors, board members are committed to a cause for a reason — sometimes because of a personal or emotional connection. What was that connection? I’ll bet it’s the heart of your next potential story.
People who were helped are obvious choices for good stories. They can give a firsthand account of what it was like before and after they were assisted, though you’ll probably have to dig and peel there, too.
What about your donors? Get them right into the action. Send out a survey, and make sure one of the questions you ask is if they have a personal connection or would like to share a story of why they give.
Once you peel back those layers, you may be surprised to find how many potential story leads you have — all right within your own organization.
And don’t forget to make it easy for people to find YOU. Think about sourcing stories as a prominent call to action in your internal and external marketing materials: brochures, newsletters, even as part of your signature line in your emails. Repetition matters. The more people see your request, the more quickly they’ll think of you when they have something to share.
No matter how you slice or dice it, finding leads and creating masterful stories is hard work. But it’s worth it. Because, like an onion, powerful storytelling is good for you, even if it moves you to tears.
Next month in part three of this series: Practical tips for keeping the story pipeline flowing.