in Nonprofits

Mastering the number one business skill of the future


These days our lives are inundated by stories. Social media has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to share a story at anytime. With this influx of breaking news, ads, YouTube clips, tweets and blog posts, it can be hard to get your own voice heard.

But it’s not impossible. Organizations who are working to change the world already have that important angle that people care about.
Developing unique stories that rise above the noise connects you with potential supporters in a way that little else can. According to LinkedIn Influencer and Contently co-founder Shane Snow, storytelling is the number one skill of the next 5 years. After all, who doesn’t love a good story. And the great ones are powerful. They give meaning to otherwise forgettable facts; they leave us wanting more; and they connect consumers with brands. Yet, it’s one of the hardest things to get right.
Here are a few tips on how to craft a compelling narrative:


1. The 7 deadly sins of storytelling might surprise you.

A successful story connects with the reader on an emotional level, but making the most basic blunders can turn off a reader in an instant. Don’t lose your readers from the get-go with these story-killers.
Break the habit of starting your story from the beginning. As the author suggests, “Chronology matters much less than having your story follow an interesting arc.”
Remember who your audience is and that most people lose interest when stories are filled with jargon. Confusing technical terms and acronyms are the real culprit behind many a lost reader.


2. Learn to sell ideas like master storyteller Malcolm Gladwell.

Malcolm Gladwell is arguably one of the most effective storytellers of his generation. How does he sell millions of copies? For one thing, he simplifies the complex and creates an intriguing story arc readers can’t resist. Once hooked, readers come back for more.
Following in Gladwell’s footsteps, don’t tell people, show them. As the article says, “Information is great. Facts can be useful, enlightening, and help us make better decisions. But they can also be overwhelming, boring, and hard to remember…carefully designed, stories also serve a larger purpose. They illustrate the main point of an argument in a way information alone can’t.”


3. Create stand-out content (without trying too hard).

The storytelling experts over at know a thing or two about making content more shareable. It’s not just about the story though. No matter how great the story, it won’t get noticed without a corresponding content strategy.
Our favorite tip: Make your content more clickable by tapping into your organization’s unique offering. Translation: connect your reader with your cause. You’re already one step ahead of others since your story begins with tackling one of the world’s pressing social issues. Make sure your whole story is personable, authentic and relevant.


4. The simple science of storytelling.

Stories are scientifically proven to activate experiential parts of our brain, helping us develop a closer connection to the author or subject matter. This means that stories don’t just help share information, they help create meaningful relationships with potential donors, advocates or partners.
When telling your story, remember to be genuine and not to take yourself too seriously. Let your audience in on the storyteller’s personal journey by sharing struggles, failures and emotions. The experience of overcoming a significant barrier can create a natural arc for your story. Audiences appreciate honesty and vulnerability, especially with when it comes to learning about nonprofits and their interactions with causes.


5. Integrate multi-media stories into every aspect of your organization.

Hubspot collected examples of how nonprofits have successfully communicated their story and impact, and as a result, inspired people to share. Our biggest takeaway? Visual and verbal are no longer separate entities. People need to see the impact you are making along with the numbers. When you tell your story, ask if it would benefit from graphics, video or photography. The answer is most likely yes.
It’s important to weave your stories into more than your communications and PR. Make sure your story shines through your web design, social media and fundraising as well. If you need help with any of these elements, consider a PR plan, Social Media Campaign, Web Design or Storytelling project with one of Catchafire’s experts.


Storytelling in Action:
  • The Storytelling Crusader: Lessons Learned from Batkid
  • Facebook Stories
  • Skype – Born Friends
  • Catchafire superstar professional Kathleen developed compelling stories for our partner Project Rousseau!


Stay tuned for next week’s edition of Sparks on using twitter to distribute content.  If you’re interested in receiving weekly tips like these, subscribe below!

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