Part of what often challenges organizations is getting their audiences brought in and excited about what they are doing. Sometimes a specific campaign can have that effect; it’s that spark of lightning that ignites possibilities. Telling great non-profit stories is another way to do this. But what you really want to do is see if you can capture that lightning in a bottle and keep leveraging it.
I think it’s entirely possible to capture lightning in a bottle. You just have to know what’s working.
If you look at successful fundraising or communications campaigns (or even talk to your audiences), what you want to know is this – what compelled them at that moment?
Now, not everyone will have identical answers, but you will see some trends emerge and those trends are your lightning, my friend.
In my experience, there is a place where lightning often** strikes – a compelling vision.
(** Though I still encourage you to do your research)
Undoubtedly, your organization has a vision statement. It’s the big picture goal for what you hope will happen because of your non-profit’s work. Yes, it might be on your website and in your annual report, but how often do you remind your audience about this vision?
More than likely you are not reminding them about your vision often enough.
As a result, you may be missing out on the opportunity to connect people with truly inspiring aspects of your work.
But when you do get that lightning strike, I’d be willing to bet that part of what compelled the audience is a vision for the future.
More than likely if the vision compelled them, there is an element of values that came to life that resonated with the audience.
For example, a world where people have equal access to education (the value: education). Or a world where women and children are free from violence (the value: anti-violence). Or a community where history is preserved (the value: local history).
What picture does your vision statement paint about the future? What values does that articulate?
3 Tips to Help You Tell an Inspiring Vision Story
As you refine your vision story (or even just get started developing it), here are three tips to help you shape that story into something that has the power to persuade and inspire.
Tip #1 – Dig Into The Details of Your Vision Statement
If your organization has a vision statement, this is a great place to start. Most vision statements tend to be one to four sentences long, and I consider them to be a high-level starting point. Ask yourself the following questions. What would our community/region/world be like if we achieved this vision? How would be people act? What would change? What would people’s day-to-day lives be like? How could things shift in the culture?
When you unearth these details, you will be able to tell a more complete and comprehensive story about it. You will be able to article the details of the vision, which will hopefully compel more people.
Tip #2 – Provide a Theory of Change
It’s great to have a visionary story for your audience, but you also need to give them some idea of why your proposed vision is the best path to change. A Theory of Change distills down you how to show your audiences how taking a particular action (or series of actions) will result in a desired change. In the case of a vision story, you’ll want to answer this question – how will this vision help us solve a particular problem?
You might think that this is getting too in the weeds of the “how” but it’s important to couple this with your vision so that your audience understand at least the basics of why and how this is a good idea.
If you’d like to read more about Theory of Change, check out this post.
Tip #3 – Know the Values
Part of what makes non-profit storytelling work so well for philanthropy, advocacy and community is its ability to show values in actions. Values, after all, are what get people inspired to participate. They see their own values reflected your organization and it has the ability to becomes something they want to participate in.
As you think about your vision, drill down into the values that vision represents. You can also think about the shared values you may already have with your audience. Either way, brainstorm a list and keep in handy.
Your Next Steps For Visionary Non-Profit Storytelling
I’ve shared a couple of tips in this blog post and want to encourage you to take action on one of them. Decided which one could help your organization with its vision story and put a time on your calendar to work on the task.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below. What will you do to improve your visionary non-profit storytelling?