One of the questions that I get asked the most is: “How can I find stories to tell?” As a fundraiser or communications professional, you might be one removed from the stories you most want to tell. Yet, you want to find and collect non-profit stories. Let’s talk about how to make that happen!
I’ve written many blog posts about collecting stories. In this article, you’ll find the ultimate step-by-step guide on how to find non-profit stories and I’ll give you the best tips on how to collect them. Be sure to bookmark it and come back to it whenever you need some tips for collecting your organization's cultural storytelling.
WHY IS CULTURE OF STORYTELLING RELEVANT?
Let’s begin by defining what we mean by the culture of storytelling. As non-profit organizations we all value the power of storytelling when sharing the story of the cause we’re working for.
However, over the last few years of my work in storytelling and donor communications, I’ve realized one very important thing: for storytelling to work, it needs to start at the organization’s cultural level.
Culture of storytelling is really driven by one story; a shared story that staff members are all a part of and engaged in. This is the “why” and the “what” story of their work.
Organizations who are telling the most compelling stories and sharing a high volume of stories generally tend to have significant internal buy-in for storytelling. Often this also translates into having a culture of storytelling at the organization. There’s folklore about the cause and everyone is enamored with it – even the donors.
I invite you to read a blog I wrote on How to create a culture of storytelling, where I explain to you step by step how your organization can work on it. I believe that creating a culture of Storytelling is how nonprofits can be successful at storytelling.
Are you interested in learning more on culture of storytelling? Read this article I wrote sharing more resources for creating a culture of storytelling.
HOW TO FIND NONPROFIT STORIES TO TELL
Once you have organizational buy-in for storytelling, it’s time to go to work finding your stories. Here are my best articles for sourcing stories from colleagues.
Create a process to collect stories: By doing so, you can work efficiently and also be able to delegate work to other members of the team.
Collect stories from your staff members: It is key to gather with your staff members and collect their stories in order to come together with one story as a non-profit.
I invite you to watch the following video where I share useful tips on how to do it:
Coordinate with your staff to collect their stories: Let me share with you 3 tips on how to collect stories from multiple departments or distant offices. Sometimes you just need to find a way to get everyone on the same boat and moving in the same directions.
Use effective tools to collect non-profit stories: These are all free tools that can help streamline your efforts.
Use donor stories: Donors are part of our stakeholders and as key members within our organization, it is relevant to also share their stories. The fact, however, is that our organization is much more robust than just the people we serve.
Collect a story from a Thank you letter: Just like appeal letters that tell a story, thank you letters that use a story are more emotionally engaging for the reader.
Start a story library: A story library allows you to gather a number of stories at hand that will be useful for fundraising and communications materials that you might produce.
Keep an organized library: My two favorite tools to create a Story Bank are a Google Doc or a Microsoft Word document. Simple tools, yet effective to create a Story Bank. In this post I give you very useful tips on organizing your stories.
And by following these tips and tools, you’ll be able to collect non-profit stories and help you create a one strong non-profit cultural storytelling.
TIPS FOR COLLECTING NON-PROFIT STORIES THROUGH INTERVIEWS
Finding stories is just the first part of collecting non-profit stories. Your next step is conducting interviews. If you’re new to story interviews, you might feel nervous or unsure what to ask. Here are several articles to set you up for success to get the best information.
- Start with interviews: Interviewing people can be a challenge, but remember to see it more as a conversation between two people. Follow these 4 tips I share with you in this article:
- Do your Research
- Think about the trajectory of the story
- Create a comfortable environment
- Be curious
- Relax! Remember it’s just a conversation
- Support people when sharing their individual stories:
Understanding just how vulnerable the process of storytelling can be will make you a better guide when you are helping other people tell their stories. When we ask someone to share their story, it can be an extraordinary ask. But with the right support, it can also be a wonderful experience. Wondering how to be a better guide and support for a person sharing their story? I suggest you read the following article I wrote on this process: How to support people when sharing their individual stories
- Ask questions that create narrative:
In order to put together a story that is entertaining and compelling, the questions that you ask need to have an order and an objective. Let me share with you 25 storytelling interview questions for non-profits. Here you have some examples you can use when creating your cultural storytelling:
- When did you first hear about ___?
- What attracted you to this cause?
- What was it like before ___?
- Why do you continue to support ___?
- Make relevant questions that invite the interviewee to tell their story. Avoid using the phrase: “So, tell me your story! In this blog, I tell you why you should avoid using this phrase and give you more question samples. Check out these story interview question samples:
- Tell me about what problem this program/service solves?
- Can you tell me about a specific person who has used this program?
- What was their life like before they began working with you?
- Do you remember the first time you met them? What was their emotional state like?
- Now that they’ve gone through this program, what’s their life like? What is their outlook for the future?
A FEW FINAL REMINDERS
I hope this ultimate guide on collecting a cultural non-profit story, filled with tips and tools can help your organization find their common non-profit story to tell, and in that way to create a solid story that will be valuable and inspirational to their stakeholders and donors.
Remember to follow the next steps when finding non-profit stories:
- Create a process to collect stories
- Collect stories from your staff members
- Coordinate with your staff to collect their stories
- Use effective tools to collect non-profit stories
- Use donor stories
- Collect a story from a Thank you letter
- Start a story library
- Keep an organized library