As a nonprofit professional, you likely wear many hats.
Fundraiser, event coordinator, marketer, and various other roles may be part of your daily workload. But one of your most important roles is that of a storyteller.
Whether you’re speaking to a focus group, volunteer group, board of directors, or potential donors, you want your presentations to be engaging and support your nonprofit’s larger goals. Storytelling is an effective way to communicate your message and inspire greater support for your mission.
With that in mind, here are four tips for improving your storytelling skills to better serve your nonprofit’s mission:
- Choose compelling protagonists.
- Develop a narrative arc.
- Support your stories with data.
- Transition to a call to action.
Building presentation skills like storytelling can take time, but the effort will be well worth it when you can effectively garner support for your nonprofit.
1. Choose compelling protagonists.
Start crafting your story by speaking with those who’ve been directly impacted by your mission.
Interview stakeholders, such as people who have benefited from your organization’s support and long-time volunteers. Use their insights to craft a story around one specific individual.
Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling recommends following these tips when deciding on a main character:
- Ensure they are relatable to your presentation’s audience.
- Choose someone who has been deeply impacted by your organization’s work.
- Verify that they are comfortable with your organization sharing their first name and potentially including a photo.
Focusing on one main character will make your story more personal and compelling. You might even choose to focus on a story from your personal experience about your interactions with community members or volunteers. Telling an authentic story that comes from the heart will make your presentation much more memorable, no matter who your audience is.
2. Develop a narrative arc.
According to Be Brilliant Presentation Group, storyboarding your presentation is an essential step in the planning process. As you storyboard your presentation, it can be helpful to organize your planning around building a narrative arc.
The elements of a compelling story include:
- Conflict: What challenges does your main character face?
- Rising Action: How has your main character attempted to solve the problem on their own?
- Climax: How did your organization step in to help mitigate the issue?
- Falling Action/Resolution: What does your protagonist’s life look like now that they’ve received support from your organization?
Make sure your presentation blueprint includes each of these key components to help you tell a cohesive narrative that flows smoothly from one point to the next.
3. Support your stories with data.
Back up your narrative with hard data that shows the impact of your organization’s mission. This shows your audience that your presentation isn’t just talk — your stories represent the real results your nonprofit has been able to achieve.
Using data to narrate your story is especially important when presenting to an audience of people who don’t have a strong existing relationship with your nonprofit, such as conference attendees. Sharing accurate data can help build your nonprofit’s credibility.
Keep your data clean and organized using data hygiene best practices. These include regularly auditing your nonprofit’s database, removing unnecessary or inaccurate data, and creating standards for ongoing data maintenance. With clean data, you can more easily find accurate statistics to fill your stories with rich quantitative information.
4. Transition to a call to action.
Audience members may feel compelled to act after hearing your inspiring story. End your story with a powerful call to action that lets them know the next steps they can take to support your cause.
Be clear about what exactly you want your audience to do after listening to your story. Here are a few examples of ways to motivate audiences to act:
- If you’re speaking to an audience of board members https://successfulnonprofits.com/types-of-nonprofit-board-retreats/at a retreat, you might end your presentation with a call to action for members to meet in small groups and brainstorm new fundraising ideas.
- If you’re speaking to a focus group of stakeholders, you may end your speech by encouraging them to provide honest feedback on your strategic plan.
- If you’re talking with a group of potential donors, you could end your presentation by providing a link or QR code to your nonprofit’s online donation page.
- If you’re speaking on a podcast to an audience of prospective supporters, you might end your interview with an invitation to visit your nonprofit’s website for more information.
Make sure to end your presentation with one final emotional appeal. Provide an update about how your main character is doing today or wrap up with an inspirational quote. You want to leave audiences feeling inspired and hopeful for the future, so end your presentation on a high note.
Your nonprofit’s community likely contains dozens of stories waiting to be told. Do a little digging to find a compelling protagonist facing an issue that your nonprofit seeks to address. Support your story with compelling visuals and data, and be sure to rehearse before delivering your final presentation. Work through your slides and practice using your body language to help tell your story. Careful preparation will help you present your story more confidently and connect with your audience on a deeper level.
About the Author
Patti Schutte is the CEO, Founder, and Principal Coach of Be Brilliant Presentation Group. Be Brilliant Presentation Group’s coaching system results in speakers moving from fear and avoidance to confidence and purpose.
Her diverse presentation experiences include classroom and corporate training, growing and motivating an independent sales force, developing a team of national presenters, speaking at conferences, and transforming the presentation skill of professionals. She believes everyone deserves the advantage of brilliant presentation and speaking skills.
Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful:
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