The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Don’t Tell Me an Issue! Tell me a Story.

Stories are the way we’ve communicated throughout human history.  There’s a reason for that:

  • Stories are powerful.  They grab and hold our attention.
  • They put a face on an issue and make it personal.
  • They make people care,
  • And move them to action!   [Both within your organization and outside of it.]

In a world inundated by information, it is the compelling stories, not the issues, that will stand out and be remembered. 

Communications guru, Andy Goodman, says it so well:

“Even if you have reams of evidence on your side, remember:  numbers numb, jargon jars, and nobody ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart.  If you want to connect with your audience, tell them a story.”

Finally, if you hope to get media attention, experts are a dime-a-dozen. The key required to unlock that door is a compelling story.

Choose Stories Wisely.
They should accurately reflect your organization’s values.

Stories are an Ongoing Project.
It is not only important to tell compelling stories, you need to add to your bank of stories on an on-going basis — keeping it up-to-date and fresh.  You need to be ready with that compelling vignette at a moment’s notice — whether for a last minute media or speaking opportunity, donor appeal, or unexpected elevator pitch.

So how do you turn your Issue into a Good Story?
It’s a combination of the following elements.  A good story does not have to have all of these elements, but the more immediate and current the story is, the more unique and dramatic, the more interest it will generate and impact it will make:

  • Compelling main character(s)
  • Drama/Conflict
  • Uniqueness
  • Timeliness
  • Show-and-Tell
  • Relevance to the Audience


How do you find Stories?

  • Start with YOU
  • Field Staff
  • Annual Strategic Plan
  • Global Calendar
  • Your Audience(s)
  • Authors/Experts
  • Publications, clippings
  • Directors and Advisory Board
  • Organization Partners, Advocacy Groups, Allied Policy-makers





Create a less-then-1-page background memo about your organization

Create a less-than-1-page bulleted fact sheet about your issue with  key statistics


Good.  Now that you’ve gotten that out of the way, you can concentrate on STORIES.  Write up 2 stories that illustrate your issue and support that memo and fact sheet you just wrote.  No stats, no industry jargon, just a good story.











  • Put a tab on your website for your audience to share its own stories your issue.
  • Email your staff/board/advisors a request for stories, — what’s moved them on a personal level to get involved with your issue?  For very little effort and no expense, you never know what you might learn.
  • Identify the next upcoming event (newspeg) where you can use your stories to get attention from donors, the public, or perhaps your local paper

Raise More This Year with Smarter Fundraising Software

Learn More

Share your thoughts!

Join the conversation to offer your insight and experience. Have a question? We’d love to hear it!

About This Blog

Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

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

Read More

Want to raise more money and learn how to market your cause with bigger impact? You’re in the right place! The Nonprofit Marketing Blog is managed by our team of experts here at Network for Good. We’re here to bring you the best in nonprofit marketing trends, fundraising techniques, technology developments, and amazing nonprofit examples.

Have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Want to be a better nonprofit marketer and fundraiser? Get alerts for free tips, key content, and other training opportunities.