Every nonprofit has multiple messages to tell, from your mission and organizational history to the story of the community you serve. You share your story every day—with donors, volunteers, staff, foundations, community partners, journalists. Think of the stories that keep people coming back time and again. They all have key elements in common. Here are 9 tips for writing a winning nonprofit message:
Keep it conversational.
Even a written story should be in your voice and have a specific person in mind. Who are you telling your story to?
Give everything purpose.
If something isn’t necessary, don’t include it. Streamlining your story will build tension and keep your audience wondering what’s going to happen next.
Make it relatable.
Tell a story your audience can see themselves in. What universal truth or need are you tapping into?
Make it specific.
Include details and descriptions that add to the tangibility of your story.
Make it authentic.
There’s no need to embellish your story. The truth is a powerful tool.
Make it memorable and sharable.
Create a story that is unique, catchy, personal, tangible, desirable, and closely tied to your cause. Give your audience a way to share it with their networks, either by word of mouth or on social media.
Aim for the heart.
Capture your audience’s emotions and imagination. Numbers don’t make people act. Emotion does. Use data and statistics to support your narrative, not lead it.
Connect to your mission.
Whether it’s how your nonprofit began, or a story about the community you serve; everything comes back to your mission. It is your driving purpose, the source of your inspiration, and the power behind your call to action.
Practice, practice, practice.
The most natural storytellers rehearse. Tell your story out loud to get to know how audiences react to it. This will help you discover where to pause for greatest impact, or hold for laughter. Let trusted staff read your story and provide feedback. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be improvising the narrative to fit your audience. Whether talking to a crowd of activists, your staff, a potential corporate sponsor, or a major donor; your story will feel spontaneous and relevant to the situation.
BONUS TIP: Know your audience.
From donor solicitations to grant applications to town hall conversations, the golden rule in telling a successful story is to know your audience. The more you know about your audience, the more effective you can be with your communications. Use your fundraising software to gather information about your donors and members. Use that information to tailor your communications to a specific audience. Contact previous program participants for testimonials and personal stories that you can use to enhance your communications. By segmenting your contacts and sending them personally relevant information, you can confidently tell the best story for every occasion.
Download our Nonprofit Storytelling Mini-Guide for more tips on how to tell engaging stories that inspire your donors.