What story is your nonprofit telling?

IDan Portnoy’s new book, The Non-profit Narrative, (a great read, by the way), Dan says:

Nonprofit organizations weren’t started to consistently ask for money and talk about the troubles of keeping the lights on.  Remember, they were started to change the world.  This is the story you need to be telling.

On this point, Dan is so right.  Check out this great example from charity:water

charity:water’s video told us a compelling story.  It gave focus to the problem, explained how we can be a part of the solution and called us to action.  That’s what a  good nonprofit story does.

Notice they didn’t overwhelm us with dozens of details about their organizational history.  No facts about the number of projects they undertook since their inception.  They didn’t list off key staff members or blather on about their organization mission, vision and values.  None of that is important to their story.

Portnoy goes on in The Non-profit Narrative, to say:

You only get a moment to share your information.  If you can communicate what you accomplish or fight in a sentence, you’ll most likely get another moment.  Multiple moments and multiple sentences are a paragraph and that’s where you can start to flourish in your storytelling.

If charity:water’s video were a boring regurgitation of the facts of who they are, when they were started, who occupies what leadership post, etc., I would have turned the video off in 10-15 seconds.  You would have too (unless maybe your kid produced the video — and that, I’d totally understand).

But they didn’t.  They served up interesting, bite-sized pieces of their story in a very compelling way.  With phrases like, Every 19 seconds a mother loses a child to water-borne illness, they’ve drawn us into the problem and caused us to invest personally in the solution (with our time right now, and possibly with other resources in the future).

Is your story, the way you’re telling it today, as compelling as it could be?  If not (and chances are, you probably aren’t), stop right now.  Don’t worry about being in the right media channels (that’s important, but can come later).  Fix your story first.  Get that right, then you can figure out how best to serve your new content up to your audience.

A boring, stale story won’t inspire action, no matter how you deliver it up.  But a good story can be successfully told across any channel.

Want more on this topic?  Buy Dan’s book today!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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