Inspire People to Tell Your Organization’s Story

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you already know that storytelling is an important gizmo in your nonprofit toolbox. Communications, marketing and fundraising teams have become master storytellers. It’s time to turn the microphone around and let our die-hard fans become passionate spokespeople for our organizations.

During their session at the Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in National Harbor, Md., John D. Trybus, professor at Georgetown and Kathy Swayze, CFRE, of Impact Communications shared ideas on how to identify, inspire and deploy your organization’s citizen storytellers.

Trybus shared insights he gained while working and traveling with Jane Goodale. Everywhere they went he met people who wanted to help Jane and help the chimpanzees. So, he asked them to talk to people waiting in line at Jane’s book signings. Trybus estimated that this group of citizen storytellers has told as many as 75,000 stories during the past two decades.

Why do citizen storytelling? It provides a way to engage more deeply with your best constituents. And, it improves brand authenticity, which is especially important in the era of “fake news”.

    Swayze and Trybus shared these tips for how to get started in your organization:

  1. Brainstorm a list of your natural storytellers;
  2. Identify two to three priority messages that you would like to convey about your organization;
  3. Identify your target audiences; and,
  4. Match your storytellers with the appropriate messages and target audiences. And then give them tools to help them get the message across.
    Swayze challenged participants to go back to their offices and work to create a storytelling culture within their organizations. Here are three ways to get started now:

  • Build storytelling into staff and board meetings;
  • Develop an organized system for storing collected story assets including interview notes, video, etc.; and,
  • Create a dedicated expense line within your marketing and fundraising budgets for the collection and telling of stories.

Remember, when you turn the microphone around and let others talk about your organization, you won’t always get perfect stories. But, in the end, these citizen storytellers can help bring your organization to life in new ways that inspire trust and support.