The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

4 Ways to Motivate Story Collection at Your Organization

For nonprofits, sharing great stories sparks emotion, connection, and action better than any other message type I know. But finding these stories can be challenging, especially because one person can’t do all the work. We depend on those on the front lines (typically program staff and volunteers) to identify high-potential stories and gather baseline information.

It’s tough. We’re not the ones who have access to most stories, but we have the greatest need for them. How do we spearhead a story collection process that’s realistic, productive and satisfying for all? Here are four ways to get started:

1) Ask for help.

Acknowledge there’s no way you can do it alone and ask your colleagues to join a story team. Be as specific as possible when you share what you need them to do, how long it should take, and how they can most easily integrate this important work into their busy schedules.

It’s also important to show what this work means for them. That might be securing more funding for their programs (a.k.a. job stability), earning media coverage, or finding new volunteers.

Whatever your approach, it’s important to thank your team members for their energy, effort, and commitment to this process.

 2) Show what a good story looks like.

Many non-profit communicators and fundraisers assume their colleagues know what good stories look like. False! It’s up to you to make it easy for your story collectors to know when they have a good story in sight. You can:

  • Share at least one example from your organization of each of these six core story types. Ideally, the examples will be stories you’ve used with success in campaigns and other outreach efforts.
  • Discuss how, where, and by who these stories were spotted, developed and used.
  • Show how the inclusion of a good story powered up a recent campaign or two.

3) Identify the specific stories you need right now.

Let your story collectors know what your current fundraising and communications strategy looks like, and the kinds of stories that will be the greatest help in meeting your organization’s goals.

For example, if your goal is to increase the capacity of your residential programs for young adults with autism, you’ll want success stories from families and young adults currently in the program. Ideally, those stories will illustrate what’s unique and valuable about your program, and highlight why donors should give to your organization.

Share examples of existing stories if you have them. If you don’t, simply sketch out prototypes for your story collectors.

Remember to update your story requests on at least a quarterly basis.

4) Share good stories and results.

Although finding and developing good stories may be top of mind for you, it’s unlikely that’s the case for your story collectors. Start hosting weekly or monthly all-story team meetings to help keep story gathering at the top of people’s minds. Ask participants to share a story idea they’ve gathered since the last meeting. Build discussion around one or two of the stories that have the greatest potential to strengthen your campaign and explain why.

Don’t forget to share successes during these meetings to show your story collectors that their hard work is making a difference. When you know a particular story increased giving for a particular campaign, share that win (and your gratitude) with your colleagues.

Use these four steps to jump start your confident, productive team of story collectors. Then, share specific needs, story ideas, results, and your appreciation on a regular basis to keep your collectors focused and motivated by. It works!

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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