Increasingly nonprofit organizations face uncertainty and financial strain. Studies found after the pandemic 1 in 3 nonprofits are at risk of closing within 2 years. One way to sustain your good work is to tell your story. Communications and marketing are the most underutilized strategies when it comes to building sustainable social impact ventures. Communicating your value and not remaining the best-kept secret is a vital strategy for sustainability.

Communication strategies must include compelling stories and messaging that clarify why sustaining a social impact venture is essential. Marketing strategies help you “sell” your product or service. Both are essential parts of continuing to share your vision to inspire others to work with you, be served by you, or learn from you.

  • Example Communications Strategy: Sharing a vignette from a satisfied client who had a significant transformation through your programs/services/etc. 
  • Example Marketing Strategy: Annual online giving campaign soliciting donations for a particular reason or selling tickets for an upcoming event. 

For our society to scale successful social change tactics, the people doing the work need to share successful strategies. Through communications and marketing, sustainable social change becomes a collective effort vs. an individual problem. 

Storytelling for Nonprofit Organizations

As a nonprofit leader, you make a difference in the world. Whether you are working to combat poverty, protect the environment, or promote education, your efforts have the potential to positively impact countless individuals and communities. But in order to truly make a difference, you have to share your story with others.

As a nonprofit organization or small business, one of the most important ways to engage with supporters and stakeholders is by telling your story. Your story is the unique narrative of your organization and the impact you make on your community. Telling your story effectively can help you connect with people, raise awareness about your cause, and inspire others to get involved.

Guess What? Your Story Matters.

Telling your story is crucial for a number of reasons. Communicating your story connects you and your audience on a deeper level. When you share your organization’s mission, values, and goals, you clearly convey your passion and dedication to your cause. This is an incredibly powerful and inspiring way to engage and motivate others to get involved in your work.

Storytelling also helps to build trust and credibility with your audiences. When you are transparent about your organization’s work and share the impact you are making, you demonstrate your commitment to transparency and accountability. This builds trust with donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders and is essential for the long-term success of your organization.

Finally, telling your story is crucial to attracting new supporters and resources. By sharing your story, you showcase the impact you are making and the need for your work. This can help to attract new donors, volunteers, and other resources that can help you to expand your reach and impact.

Uplevel Your Story

30- day challenge to make more impact, and connect to your audience on a deeper level so you can inspire, get support, and build trust.

  • 30 days of content ideas for social entrepreneurs
  • Weekly motivational videos
  • Workbook to guide your strategy
  • Weekly content examples for inspiration

      Real-Life Impact: Communications & Marketing

      Working in the government I was able to see how important communications and marketing are to sustainable success. Across multiple cohorts of organizations receiving grants, the ones who were most successful at sustaining their efforts were the ones who figured out how not to be the best-kept secret. As mentioned earlier, communicating your impact will connect you with the most important audiences- donors, supporters, clients, and partners. These are essential stakeholders to promote your sustainability. 

      As a grant manager, supporting communications and marketing meant approving funding to be used for these purposes. That might include a part-time position or contract in the budget to tell the organization’s impact story and attract supporters. Creating an incentivized contest for youth or young people to generate content for marketing purposes is an easy and effective way to engage youth and support your content creation. 

      The grantees who were most effective at telling their stories focused on showing what their community was like and why their programs/services mattered to the community. These communications pieces became very important examples of the impact they were making when sustainability discussions started at the end of the grant.

      Telling your story matters, and there are tons of ways to do it. First, you have to dedicate the time to learn how. 

      How To Tell Your Story

      Effectively telling your story to others is a skill you can grow. With practice, that skill will turn into a valuable platform for your continued success. These steps will get you started and keep you strategic.

      1. Identify your key messages
        1. Before you start sharing your story, it’s important to identify the key messages you want to convey. Your key messages are the content you will share over and over again in different creative ways to attract your supporters. By identifying your key messages, you can ensure that you are consistently conveying the most important information about your organization.
        2. A few key messages include: What is the mission of your organization? What are your values and goals? What impact are you making in the world? 
      2. Use storytelling techniques
        1. To effectively share your story, it’s important to use storytelling techniques to engage and inspire your audience. By using storytelling techniques, you can help your audience to better understand and connect with your work. You also make your content more engaging and build a stronger connection with your audience.
        2. A few storytelling techniques you can use include:  anecdotes, quotes, and other elements to bring your story to life.
      1. Be authentic
        1. It’s important to be authentic when sharing your story. Don’t be afraid to share the challenges and setbacks you have faced, as well as the successes. Being open and honest about your organization’s journey can help to build trust and credibility with your audience.
        2. Ways to be authentic: share your values or vision, be transparent about outcomes and things that work/didn’t work, and give space to your community members to share their experiences.
      1. Use visual content
        1. Visual content can be an incredibly powerful tool for sharing your story. Visual content helps to bring your story to life and make it more engaging and memorable for your audience.
        2. Visual content examples: photos, videos, or infographics are great ways to share information-rich content. Graphics, images, and videos can be used in email marketing and on social media to build your brand and reach your audience in a meaningful way.
      1. Share your story across multiple channels
        1. There are many different channels you can use to share your story, including social media, your website, newsletters, and in-person events. It’s important to utilize a variety of channels to reach as many people as possible.
        2. You don’t have to be on every platform, but you do need a strategy for the platforms you choose to use.

      Best Practices for Telling Your Story

      There’s definitely a right and wrong way to tell your story. These best practices will help you keep your story interesting while you share your impact with new and existing audiences. 

      1. Keep it real: People are more likely to connect with a story that is genuine and authentic. Avoid using jargon or buzzwords, and focus on sharing real-life examples and anecdotes that illustrate the impact of your work.
      2. Make it personal: Your story should be about more than just your organization – it should be about the people you serve and the impact you make on their lives. Use personal stories and testimonials to illustrate the impact of your work and show how it makes a difference in people’s lives. Involving the youth you serve is a great way to reach younger audiences.
      3. Be concise: Your story should be concise and to the point. Avoid rambling or getting too bogged down in details. Keep it simple and focused, and use clear, concise language to make your points. Again, avoid jargon! 
      4. Use visuals that reflect your audience: Visuals that look like and connect with your audience are important ways to attract exactly who you want to be. If you serve diverse populations of people, make sure your visuals reflect the people you serve and resonate with them.
      5. Put your story out there:  Content repurposing helps you share your story in as many places as possible. By investing in a few simple tools online like a content scheduler and the Descript app, you can repurpose audio, video, and written content with interesting visuals to multiple platforms.

        Don’t Be The Best-Kept Secret

        Remember, telling your story is an essential part of being a nonprofit leader. By sharing your mission, values, and impact, you will connect with your audience, build trust and credibility, and attract new supporters and resources. Being the best-kept secret will not support your long-term sustainability and success.

        When you’re ready to stop being the best-kept secret, aligning your strategy for impact with your communications strategy can help you get ahead. 

        Image of 30 day content calendar for social entrepreneurs to tell their story during the Uplevel Your Story challenge pictured in a black iphone on white background.

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