If you’ve been in this field for any length of time, you’ve heard all about how important it is to capture your organization’s story.
Most nonprofit marketing bloggers, however, tend to focus solely on one aspect of your organization’s story when, in fact, having an entire cache of stories – from your founder, your clients, your board members, your staff, community members – will make all of your development writing – from your annual appeal to your newsletter to your grant proposals to your web copy – literally flow with passion.
I call them “story swipe files” and they’re a critical component of my Development Systems.
How can you find your organization’s story?
Start by paying attention.
1. Schedule some one-on-one time with one or two of your board members to find out what motivated them to become involved with your organization.
When I sat down with a board president for an organization I once worked with I learned the story of how spending a summer teaching with our program completely turned her daughter’s life around. This mother was so grateful that she learned more about the program – and became active on the board.
2. You run an after-school program? It isn’t only about the kids. Make some time to talk to the parents. Find out how and why your organization is helping them, what changes they’ve seen in their children.
3. Schedule a minimum of thirty minutes to an hour a week to call donors with your personal thanks. Really engage them in finding out why they contribute to your organization.
4. Staff members have stories too. They didn’t come to work for your organization strictly for a paycheck. Share your stories at staff meetings and encourage your colleagues to share theirs!
5. While video is nice, photographs can be just as effective. Buy a digital camera for the office and take pictures – lots of them. Pictures make a story come alive and can be included in video or on your website.
6. Lastly, don’t ever try to polish the language in your stories. Outside of basic spelling and punctuation corrections, let your subject’s voice remain authentic, true, and distinct.
One very inexpensive tool that I’ve found to be invaluable in story collection is a mini voice recorder. Olympus has one of the best – and it’s less than $30.
Create a story inventory. Make story gathering an active, ongoing process. Keeping a centralized inventory of stories will make each writing project easier – and will allow you to use specific examples of your program’s work to match the goals and missions of whomever you’re writing for.
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