Every nonprofit has multiple messages it wishes to communicate. From your mission and organizational history to the story of the community you serve. You should retell your story every day—with donors, volunteers, staff, foundations, community partners, journalists. Conjure stories that will keep people returning over and over again. And they have certain traits in common. Here are tips for writing a winning nonprofit message:
Keep it conversational.
Even when writing a story in a unique style, you should have a specific person in mind. You must first know who you are telling your story to.
Give everything purpose.
Omit everything that makes your story redundant. A story full of essentials will build tension and keep your audience restless for the next action.
Make it relatable.
Narrate a story that your audience can relate to on a personal level. Build your story around themes that are generic yet personal.
Make it specific.
Include details and descriptions that transform your words to images frozen in their minds.
Make it authentic.
Don’t just make your story pretty, make it human. The truth is a force of gravity.
Make it memorable and sharable.
Weave a story that is unique, catchy, personal, tangible, desirable, and tangled with your purpose. Capture the essence of your story in a ratio of words that can be recalled and circulated by word of mouth and on social media with ease.
Aim for the heart.
Capture your audience’s emotions and imagination. Computers respond to numbers better than humans. Use statistics to support your narrative, not lead it.
Connect to your mission.
Whether it’s how your nonprofit began, or a story about the community you serve and are trying to help; your mission is your missile. It is your driving purpose, the source of your inspiration, and the arrow behind your bow of action.
Practice, practice, practice.
The stories we applaud are stories that were told over and over again in silence to a shadow. Tell your story out loud to get to gauge how audiences might react to it. This will help you discover where to pause for greatest impact, or hold for laughter. Let your story pass through professional standards then improve on the feedback. The more you practice the less each session feels like practice. So that when talking to a crowd of activists, your staff, a potential corporate sponsor, or a major donor; your story will feel spontaneous and relevant to the situation.
BONUS TIP: Know your audience.
From donor solicitations to grant applications to town hall conversations, the golden rule in telling a successful story is to know your audience. The more you know about your audience, the more effective you can be with your communications. Use your donor management system to gather information about your donors and members. Use that information to tailor your communications to a specific audience. Contact previous program participants for testimonials and personal stories that you can use to enhance your communications. By segmenting your contacts and sending them personally relevant information, you can confidently tell the best story for every occasion.