There is an important component to nonprofit storytelling that you might not know about.
It is almost always absent from the stories sent to me by nonprofits.
Yet, it is one of the most important things you can include if you want to tell a great story that generates more support for your organization.
Including this component will improve your nonprofit storytelling by helping you create tension, build excitement, and deepen the emotional involvement of the reader.
These are all things you want to achieve with your stories.
So what’s missing? What’s the key ingredient?
The struggle is real
Most nonprofits do a good job of explaining the problem. They understand the problem very well and they’re able to explain why it needs to be solved.
This is where they provide the context of their hero and show the challenges their hero faces in everyday life.
Nonprofits are also very familiar with their solution. They know what they do to help solve that problem.
Some nonprofits make the mistake of getting too into the weeds about how they do what they do, but many do a good job of showing their solution by discussing the impact their work has on their beneficiaries.
But here’s where they make a big mistake…
They forget something really important to the story…
They make it all sound way too easy.
It would be as if the Lord of the Rings began with Frodo being told he needed to destroy Sauron’s ring and then skipped right to the end with (spoiler alert!) Frodo on Mount Doom and the ring melting in the lava.
Or if the Wizard of Oz started in black and white with the tornado hitting Dorothy’s house and then jumped to the end with everything still in black and white where Dorothy wakes up in Kansas and everything’s okay.
Not quite the same story, is it?
The beginning sets the context and presents the problem.
The end provides the climax and the resolution, but it is the stuff in the middle that makes it such a great story.
This is where the story gets its color.
This is where the readers get invested in the details of your hero’s journey.
If you want to improve your nonprofit storytelling then make sure you take your readers on the journey to the solution.
Be explicit and upfront about the challenges you face trying to achieve your mission.
I think the biggest reason why nonprofits often neglect to include this in their stories is because they don’t want to appear to struggle to achieve their mission.
They want everyone to see them as the organization that has the solution and knows how to solve the problem. All you need is their donation to enable your work and it’s done.
But this is a big mistake.
Nonprofit stories are improved by describing the struggles and challenges faced when implementing your solution.
This is such an important part of the story.
This allows you to create more conflict, build tension, and hold the attention of your readers.
This is where you get your audience to wonder, “What will they do?” or “How does this end?”
This part of the story does not show weakness. In fact, when done well the opposite is true.
This aspect of the story shows fortitude and a commitment to achieving your mission no matter what challenges arise.
Plus, it gives you an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving ability, your creative thinking, and your never-say-die attitude.
These are all things that will help generate more interest and support for you cause.
- The struggles you face to achieve your mission are real and an important part of your story
- Include these struggles in your stories to create conflict and build tension
- Use this part of the story to highlight your commitment and problem-solving ability
- Telling the story of your struggles does not make you appear weak