One of the most frequently asked questions I've received since starting The Storytelling Non-Profit in 2012 is, "How can I organize and keep track of my story content?" The short answer is that you need a story bank. A story bank is basically a way of cataloging your story content so you can use and leverage the content you’ve created. I’ve talked about the benefits of creating and maintaining a content bank in this post, and story banking is similar concept.
I don't know about you, but it can be easy to lose track of things on your computer or cloud filing system. I've had many moments where I knew the file existed somewhere, but I couldn't quite figure out the right search term to pull it up on my computer. So frustrating! Additionally, when your organization is producing a lot of content it can become difficult to neatly keep it all organized.
Creating a story bank will help you organize your story content and more importantly streamline your process for telling stories. I've tried a lot of tools in the last few years for story banks and hands down my favorite is Trello.
Trello is a free project management tool, but that description doesn't really do it justice. It's very flexible in how you choose to use it and visual. In this case, I've used Trello to create a story bank.
Here's a 6 minute video on how I set up my story bank using a Trello board. Read on below for the text and image version of this step-by-step tutorial, plus additional story banking resources.
Step-by-step guidance to help your non-profit set up a story bank using Trello
How to Set Up a Non-Profit Story Bank in Trello
Creating an effective story bank really can be this easy! Here’s the step-by-step processes to start story banking.
Set up a free Trello account
To get started, go to Trello and create a free account. You don't need to use a paid account to create the story bank we’re setting up here.
Open a new Trello board
Once you're in Trello, take a look at the menu on the left side of your screen. In this menu are your “Workspaces.” Workspaces in Trello are where boards for individual projects live. Most people have one Workspace that will share the organization’s name. If you haven’t created a Workspace yet, look for the + sign in the menu on the left side.
Click that and you’ll be prompted to create your workspace.
Once you’ve got your Workspace set up, you can create boards for projects like a story bank. If this is your first board, you can click the button that reads “Create Your First Board.”
If you already have a Workspace set up, click the button that says “Create a new board.”
Now, I called my board for this project “story bank.” You could rename your something else if you'd like.
Use Trello Lists to project manage your Story Bank
To create a really effective story bank, what I do is basically use the list functions to create a couple of different categories to keep everything in one place and really help to streamline my process. I think those are both really important points because we do a lot of things to keep track of right in our roles. Staying organized and managing all of that information is really important. It's also important to streamline the process and have a clear process so that everyone involved knows what's happening at the different stages and knows where everything is in that process.
Here’s an overview of the four different lists I create inside my Story Bank board.
Story Leads and Ideas - Use this list to keep track of story leads and ideas you have. Create a new card for each idea and use the description box within the card to make additional notes.
Interview Notes - This list for storing your interview notes. Once you've conducted a story interview, you can put your notes directly in the description box or upload them as an attachment. This is basically where you can start to catalog notes from interviews you do with people. These may or may not be turned into an actual story, but I think it's a really good idea to have this in place. For example, maybe you interviewed someone named, let's just say, Jane. You can click the card to open it and you can type your notes here in the description box. The other thing you can do that I think is really great is if you choose to record your story, let's say on a or your interview on a voice memo or recorder, you can actually upload it to this card as an attachment so that you don't lose track of it.
Stories in Progress - If you've started turning your interview notes into stories, this is where you can keep your works in progress. These are basically the stories that you've done your interviews for and now you're in the process of actually writing them. And again, so let's say we interviewed Jane. We would probably then just create another card for her over here, and we would put that story either in the description box if you wanted to write from there or you could upload a word document attachment just so you have a record of where that is and where you can find it.
Finished and Approved Stories - As you finish stories from the "Stories in Progress" list, move them here. I recommend keeping any assets associated with the story attached to the story’s card. This could include consent forms, media releases, photos, videos, and links to where the story is published.
Here’s a peek inside the Story Bank board so you can see what this looks like.
One of the things that I didn't mention in the video that I think makes a Trello story bank extra useful in the context of a team is that you can invite others to join your board. This could be useful if you want all staff to submit their idea to your "Story Leads & Ideas" list. It could also be useful if you want your ED to take a look at stories and give them the final seal of approval.
Additional Resources for Non-Profit Story Banks
Figuring out how to add stories to your story bank is typically the biggest challenge. Here are my top 3 tips for finding stories to tell.
Some of your best stories are right under your nose. Here’s how to ask your non-profit’s community to share their stories. This is a great way to kickstart your story bank!
If you’re looking for more guidance on setting up your story bank, this is a great read from Narrative Arts.
Need some more help organizing and streamlining your communications and stories? I've got you covered inside Trello for NP Comms. You'll get 9 pre-made Trello boards that you can start using today, plus Trello tutorial videos to help you become the most productive person in your office.Psst! There are so many ways non-profits can use Trello to get organized. Check out this list of additional ways non-profits can leverage the power of Trello for project management.