Last week, we wrote about the power of storytelling in the non-profit world and how accounts of the human experience positively impact an audience by putting a face and name to an organization’s mission.

Today, we would like to outline the steps for developing highly effective stories and showcasing them throughout your marketing, communications and fundraising efforts.

Step 1: Develop Your Story Structure
Generally, the most effective stories follow a three-part structure. Part One is the set-up: It can be background of the subject or an overview of the organization or program that he or she represents. Part Two consists of a “problem” or situation that the subject was facing before receiving services from your organization. Part Three is the positive outcome from the process. One important piece of advice: Use candid interviews and first-person accounts to tell your story as opposed to third-person narrators.

Step 2: Create Compelling Individual Vignettes
The most compelling stories focus on one main character. Experts call this the “singularity effect.” The subject can be a fictitious representation if confidentiality is involved or a real life individual. This, of course, will significantly impact the visuals you can use. In either case, effective visuals are extremely important to add color and dynamism to your stories. Also, consider developing a series of more than one vignette to allow for repetition. Make sure all of your subjects are highly relatable to create a strong connection with your desired audience.

Step 3: Take the Audience from Conflict to Resolution
Overcoming conflict is the lifeblood of a non-profit organization. What difficult situation was the subject facing? How did he or she find your organization? And, most importantly, how did your non-profit find the lever to ultimately turn the conflict into resolution? The more raw – and the more sincere – the sentiments you capture about the subjects struggle, strength and courage, the more effective you will be in “strumming” the heartstrings of your audience.

Step 4: Show How Your Organization Creates Hope
Employing the right amount of detail, share how your organization provides critical resources to taking the subject on a journey from a state of need despair to one of resolution and hope. It is also important to convey how your non-profit can provide long-term solutions to keep recipients on an upward trajectory and be clear about how necessary your audience’s sustained support will be to make it all happen.

Step 4: Call Your Audience to Action
Once you have shared your full three-part story and made a strong emotional connection with your audience, it’s critical to invite them to be the “hero” of their own story. The key to this process is to shift from what your non-profit does to how the donor can be empowered through your organization. How can they “be” the difference? What can they do to make things better for new beneficiaries? Most importantly, make sure that when they have been moved to take action, they have a direct and simple path to give through an easy-to-click URL or scannable QR code.

Step 6: Channel Up Your Stories  
When it comes to communicating your heartstrings stories, we strongly recommend that you pull out all the stops. There are numerous vehicles and channels and to use, including:

  • Email Campaigns
  • Social media Posts
  • Print and Digital Newsletters
  • Direct Mail Pieces
  • One-on-One Meetings
  • Large Special Events
  • Small Event (i.e. Parlor Meetings)

You may want to introduce a new video at a major fundraising event to make sure it’s fresh to your most desired prospects. Once you do so, fan it out or all to see and make sure each key audience segment has a convenient and appropriate call to action.

If you’re ready to explore effective story-telling and need assistance with all or any of these important steps, contact Andy Rose, Chief Choreographer, at or call (561) 945-9356.