What IS your nonprofit’s story?

Storytelling is important; in fact, it’s the core of what we do. But what IS your nonprofit’s story? And what should it be telling people?

A story is not simply your mission statement, although mission statements are an important piece of your story. Your story shows the follow-through of your mission statement and should clearly display the “why” behind everything you put into your nonprofit. After all, if your passion is for changing people’s lives for the better, make sure others know that’s what your nonprofit does!

So how do you start with telling your nonprofit’s story? As an example, imagine you’re a part of an environmental preservation organization.

1. Figure out the characters

Who can you identify as the key players within your nonprofit’s realm?

For an environmental charity, an obvious choice is the reader, as they are inevitably living in the environment you’re seeking to save. Another character could be a person or business which is impacting the earth, either for better or worse. And – depending on your brand’s messaging – the earth itself might act as a “character” by giving it a voice, personality, feelings and thoughts. 

2. Describe the problem

There’s no reason to hide it; the problems your nonprofit works to solve – water pollution, excess waste, overconsumption of electricity, etc. – are exactly what you should communicate to the reader from the start. 

It isn’t always necessary to state each and every area in which you work. But if the reader doesn’t quickly understand the “gist” of what your organization stands for, chances are good they’ll keep scrolling. So make it clear what you’re about from the start.

3. Explain the journey

With no shortage of issues worthy of people’s time and efforts, your reader might feel overwhelmed. After all, no one can do everything. However, by showing people simple steps they can take to get involved with your cause, a task like cleaning up the oceans by 10% over the next 10 years might not seem so daunting.

For the real “meat” of your story, create a path from where your characters are now to where they can be in the future, what it takes to get there and how your reader can bridge the gap between.

4. Show the action and its results

It’s easy to be cynical, so show people real results of what your nonprofit has done to help the planet. Maybe it’s volunteers planting trees in a formerly barren area or all staff pledging to cut out single-use plastic utensils in their home – no matter how small, show the impact your actions have caused and what they’re expected to do in the future.

Basically: provide insight into the ways your nonprofit not only “talks the talk” but “walks the walk”. Not only does this give your donors confidence in how their money is being spent, but you’ll pick up more like-minded supporters along the way, too.

5. Ask for the reader’s involvement 

Depending on where and how you’re sharing your story, your call-to-action might be 

  • Signing up for your newsletter,
  • Donating to your fundraising campaign,
  • Leaving you a review on Facebook,
  • Visiting your organization’s website for more information,
  • Commenting about their experience with the problem your organization addresses, or
  • Registering as a volunteer for your upcoming event.

Whatever the CTA, it’s important that you show the reader they aren’t merely a passive observer in the story; they’re an important part of it. The reader should see themselves as the hero or problem-solver.

Here’s an example of a condensed version of this (fictitious) environmental organization’s story:

For too long, she’s been used for others’ gain at her own expense – and now, she needs to be protected, cared for and invested in: Earth. We’re at a crossroads as to whether the climate crisis gets much better – or much worse – from here. Change will take time and intentional action, but at Love Her Back, we believe it’s time Earth felt the love.

The best part? You can be a part of making waves in Earth’s treatment: through small changes in your day-to-day, volunteering with us, joining with others to advocate change at the corporate level and more. Over the last eight years, together we’ve planted more than 10,000 trees across the midwest, diverted tons of trash from landfills and trained hundreds of people on how to shift their everyday habits to heal the Earth – and we’re just getting started. Learn more about the movement and how to jump in by visiting loveherback.org.

This mini story tells the reader everything they need to know to decide if they’re interested in your organization. No matter where or how you’re sharing your story, these are the five main points that drive everything you do. THIS is why telling your story well matters.