A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to teach a Fundraising Fundamentals course on Storytelling.  The perspective I bring to the topic is that of an executive leader in marketing and development focused on fundraising results, community engagement, and brand building.  My goal was to impart to the attendees the elements of non-profit storytelling, the impact of trust on non-profit communications, and detailed action items for donor storytelling and engagement.

In preparation, I was fascinated to find two compelling definitions for storytelling:

  • Wikipedia: Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences; Storytelling can be used as a method to teach ethics, values and cultural norms and differences.
  • National Storytelling Network: Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.

These external definitions really amplify that storytelling is both an art and a science.

As a non-profit communicator, we use stories for many reasons:

  1. To attract donors and volunteers
  2. To recognize funders
  3. To recruit new members
  4. To promote our services
  5. To retain current donors and supporters
  6. To create a connection

Stories are all around us—in books and music, on televion and in movies, in advertisements, in chats with friends. Stories help us to feel, remember, share, relate, love, and connect.  When we are telling stories, we are WE, not ME. A good story generates a feeling that promotes an action, and the best metrics will differ based on your primary storytelling goal.