Why Nonprofits Must Become Story Gatherers

At Horizon Communications Group, we believe strongly that every nonprofit has a story to tell. Unlocking those stories and sharing them with your audience will yield tremendous returns. First in our Storytelling for Nonprofits series: Why Nonprofits Must Become Story Gatherers.

Story gathering must be at the core of a nonprofit’s communication strategy. Showcasing an organization’s narrative is powerful. If leveraged appropriately, you can increase reach, compel engagement, and drive fundraising.

Why stories? Stories are a channel for interpersonal connection and communication that date back centuries. Most stories build narrative around human experience. They provide a path for consumers to develop empathy, share in happiness or pain, and see the world through another’s eyes.

Story gathering for your nonprofit is different than writing a short story for a magazine or sharing a tale with friends. However, good stories, whether for nonprofits or otherwise, all strive to achieve a similar outcome: to engage the consumer by speaking truth.

“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” -Khalil Gibran

Your nonprofit’s storytelling should aim to depict the realities of your mission and programmatic work. While data collection is the most heavily touted need for nonprofits—and it is certainly critical—storytelling is equally, if not more important.

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul,” says Dr. Brené Brown.

A nonprofit’s storytelling can highlight voices that are often unheard, expand coverage of an issue, or spotlight a critical need. Telling a story of hardship, empowerment, or personal triumph, and pairing it with programmatic data, has the potential to spur action in the consumer. Now, they can see through someone’s eyes how expanded support could lead to on-the-ground impact. They have words, not just numbers, that support an ask. They understand the critical nature of your nonprofit’s mission because they’ve been brought into the work via a story.

A good story draws in the consumer and allows them to take action by sharing the story with friends, volunteering, or donating money. Your nonprofit has now made space for the consumer to actively participate in your mission. An invested consumer is the mecca of stakeholder engagement.

Look at your communication, development, and program departments. Determine who can become your nonprofit’s story gatherer. Even lean nonprofits can find a home for story gathering. Consider an intern. Prioritize this in your company’s strategic plan and highlight it in a department’s annual workflow. Commit to becoming story gatherers and story tellers. The commitment will pay off.

In later blogs, we’ll break down the story gathering process, provide tools you can utilize, and discuss channels for sharing the stories with your nonprofit’s consumers.