How to Tell Your Nonprofit Story to Your Audience

What makes a good story? This week, we will look at the purpose of storytelling and how to write a compelling nonprofit story.

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The entire episode has been transcribed below. To download as a .pdf you can click here.


Rob: Story is everything. It's how you close the knowledge gaps.

What is the knowledge gap? A knowledge gap exists when there is a loving action of the gospel that something you do is accomplishing.

So, let's talk about that $10,000 project to train local NGOs in fundraising

Every Good Story Has an Antagonist, Protagonist, Conflict, and Resolution

What's the story? Well, the story is gonna be the story of one of those NGOs. And look down at the bottom there where I said every good story has an antagonist, a protagonist, conflict and resolution. 

And so each one of your constituency including you, are the protagonist in this story. Or the people you're helping out are the protagonist in the story you're telling about them.

The antagonist is who's trying to keep them from doing their work. What's in their way? What is the conflict? What is the thing that's stopping them from doing their job? That's their antagonist.

It could even be themselves. In some case, the protagonist and the antagonist can be the same.

It's a little more complicated story in that if your board is trouble, they may be your antagonist. They may be the one keeping you from growing and being the ministry you can because they don't give money themselves, or because they're too focused on what you do for them rather than they do for you.

So your story could be one of a dysfunctional board. There's your antagonist and your protagonists.

And what's the conflict? The conflict is when you try to get them to change and start giving money and or be more involved or whatever the conflict is. 

And then resolution shows how it came about that you solved this problem. That's what story is.

You know in the United States, romantic movies, I like them Bollywood too. The boy meets girl, right? Is a standard movie, a romantic comedy.

A man meets woman. They come together. They have a wonderful time. There's pictures of them in canoes, falcons flying by them. You know, I mean it's all these beautiful romantic scenes. And then she discovers he's got warts of some sort or another, or he gets his eyes on some other woman. There's a conflict and the rest of the story is about how they resolve the conflict. And in the end, they kiss and get married and have babies.

All the movies have some version of that plot. And all because it's story, it's what keeps us involved.

Close the Knowledge Gaps with Stories

And the reporter's way of closing the knowledge gap, that is what's actually happening way out in the field, and what do you know about it? Those knowledge gaps.

For example, if you have a large church planting minister, there's a church planter out there somewhere on a daily basis doing something.

That loving action of the gospel that they're doing is the act that your donor is most interested in.

They don't care about all of the steps in between that get you to that outcome. You care about them because you have to do all of these things in order to deliver that service.

But what the donor wants to see is the outcome. And what's difficult for you all, and by far makes your job the most difficult is your outcomes eventually are somebody else's. That's the work of an association.

That's the work of what you do is to make everybody else in your country better at what they do. It's a servant-leadership at its most basic. It's eldership at its most basic.

The Basis of Story: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How

And so when developing a story, this is what I was taught in journalism school it still holds true today, it's the reporter's task, who, what, where, when, why and how.

Think about a story. Who's in it? What's happening in the story? Where's it happening? When did it happen? Why did it happen? And how did it happen?

If you can answer those questions and tell it in a good way, you're gonna hook people in. All good stories have all of these elements plus the dramatic arc. That is the basis of story.

Help the Giver Understand the Work You're Doing

Why am I saying this?

Because this is going to be the most critical way that you help your givers understand the loving actions that are ending up because of the work that you're doing.

And so we're gonna be working a lot on story. We're gonna be working on developing staff that can work on story.

This is gonna get into your social media stuff because all of this stuff is now gonna be electronic available through links, videos. 

This is the most exciting era ever to be in fundraising, by far, because you have so many better ways of telling the story today.

All the way from Instagram, and what's the one that my family is using right now? We have someone going through an illness and they're all on. It's not Snapchat, but it's some goofy thing.

And there's just so much going on in social media that demands good story, that this is going to become a major emphasis for you.

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