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Nonprofit Storytelling Done Right: 5 Steps to Sharing Your Social Impact

By Cory Bosket

Avatar for Cory Bosket

Whether you’re sharing around the water cooler, sitting around a campfire, pitching a prospective client or running for public office, it pays to have a knack for narrative. Good stories have the power to pull at our emotions and grab our attention.

Great ones, however; they have the power to spark movements.

They can inspire members of your community and empower armies of volunteers & donors. But great stories don’t just appear from mid-air.

So where are the impact stories? For many of community-based brands, it’s been in us all along. Our greatest stories of hope and change can be found in the extraordinary work nonprofits, social enterprises and cause-driven organizations do each and every day.

Yet, despite all of the great work that is accomplished by these agents of social impact, the web remains cluttered with unclear annual reports, program statistics and uninspired appeals for support.

If your cause-driven brand seems invisible, don’t fret. Your story is in everything you do, and these five steps will help you structure your story of social impact.


Step 1: Define What Makes You Different

In the social sector, it’s not about how well you fit in. It’s about how much you stand out.  Allegheny County has one of the largest nonprofit per capita numbers in the entire country. If you want to leave impactful impressions on your audience, your message need to separate yourself from the pack.

At Imagebox, defining what makes you different starts with an internally focused discovery session. It’s where we take some time to dig deep into your brand’s values, culture, and operations.

We take that unique combination of your culture, identity and perceptions to map out who you are, who you’re not and who you strive to be. When it’s all said and through, we’re left with a clear, well-defined message that helps you stand out and be heard.


Step 2: Know Your Audience

Different audiences. Different interests. If you want your community to care about you, you have to know what they care about.

What problems do they see in their community? How do they overcome those problems? What are they looking to see in the world? Once you have your answers, frame your story accordingly.

Make it imaginative, inspiring, and unforgettable.  Leverage what you know about your audience to give your content context. Where do they live on the web? How should you tell them what makes your social good so great? The more you discover about your audience, the better positioned you are to share your story.


Step 3: Make Every Word Count

We’re in an age of content overload. Audiences consume more information than ever before. If you want to inspire, you need to make a connection.

Think about any good story you’ve read or heard recently. Why did it stand out to you? Did it start with a strong narrative? Were the characters people we could root for? Did the build-up have you dying to know what happens next?

Conflict is what drives stories forward. It’s what has us tense with anticipation as move our eyes toward the next sentence. If you want people to really care about what you have to say, save the facts and figures for your annual reports and sales sheets. They’re hard to relate to and fail to leave a lasting impression.

Focus on the challenges you faced instead. Take your audience through the struggles you encountered before providing them with an unexpected solution. Discuss how these solutions impacted everyday people. If you get the words just right, it will leave your audience filled with emotions. Emotions that help them remember your message and your mission as they go about their day.


Step 4: Show and Tell

No matter how well you write, it won’t reach every audience. Phones and social networks are how many of us stay up-to-date with the unstoppable stream of content – and our lack of time and patience means much of it is either ignored or quickly scanned for the most important pieces of information.

If you want your message to be heard, sometimes you have to let it be seen.

Visual storytelling is one of the biggest marketing trends, and it’s only growing bigger by the second. The numbers don’t lie, people simply respond to visuals more than text.

Visual Storytelling data

When story and image combine, they drive action unlike anything else. Science has shown that our emotions drive our decisions, and one of the best ways to ignite those emotions is through visually striking stories. If you want your message to be engaging, you need to embrace the era of visual storytelling.


Step 5: Make it Meaningful

Your days are filled with small victories, and it’s these stories of social good that are the driving force behind everything you do.

So how are you sharing them?

Getting the attention of your community is becoming more difficult than ever. And you’re not only competing with the businesses in your neighborhood when broadcasting your message online, you’re competing with some of the biggest names in the country.

If you want your story to be shared, make it easier for your audience to understand. Deliver your successes in clear, concise and compelling stories. Make it real, relatable and stir emotions. Once you’ve shaped your story, share it on the appropriate mediums and social channels.

A good story versus a great story can make the difference between engaging your community or losing them to the next social cause. Great stories aren’t a matter of rocket science – it lives and breathes in the work we do. So go ahead, give your mission a face and start rekindling passion in your donors through stories of your social impact.