Effective Storytelling: 4 Ways to Get an Impact Story

In her continuing series, we welcome special guest, Stelter Editorial Director, Katie Parker.

Stories invite people to listen. Better yet, impact stories invite people to feel.

Unlike a donor story, which shares one person’s motivation for giving, an impact story expands to the universe of your work. An impact story proves out your mission and demonstrates the good that your organization is doing.

Securing impact stories requires a bit of discipline on your part. But the resulting bank of poignant quotes and voices is well worth the effort.

Here are four ways to start building your impact story reserve:

1. Put it in their job description.

Your frontline fundraisers, community leaders and on-the-ground personnel are likely exposed to the fruits of your nonprofit’s efforts. Ensure that this group knows your goals for collecting stories and how valuable their help is. Make it an expectation that they regularly ask the people impacted by your work to tell their story. Gather quotes and details; the final story doesn’t have to be hammered out until later.

Tip: Get some of the legal hang-ups—a signed waiver or a photo, for example—out of the way to make returning to the story easy.

2. Make an ask on social media.

Do the people impacted by your work follow you on Facebook? Consider a post asking for a quote from them that could be shared in future publications.

Storytelling doesn’t have to be long-form. An impactful sentence or two can do the work just as effectively.

3. Reach out to your volunteers.

It’s important to share different voices as you tell your brand’s story. Volunteers see the work you’re doing and could offer good testimonials for the impact you’re making.

4. Repurpose!

Marketing is delivering the right content at the right time to the right person. Think you nail all three every time you publish a story?

Quick aside: For years I worked as an editor at Better Homes and Gardens. We had THE chocolate chip cookie recipe. This recipe ran in the flagship magazine twice; it was 22 places on the website (in Christmas cookie compilations, freezer-friendly recipe groups, “best of” lists and SEO pages, among others); it ran across one-off magazines a few times a year; and we re-promoted it on Pinterest and Instagram as interest peaked. Our readers found it at the time they were ready to bake in the context they were looking for.

Nonprofit impact stories deserve the same frequency. Run stories in different formats across your different mediums at different times. With content, repetition is critical.

Critical Success Factor!

Prepare a content management system for your incoming stories. A spot on the server, a Google doc, a Dropbox account…whatever makes sense for your organization. Assign codes to the stories and track the photos and waivers, along with the publication spots and response rates to add context to the content.

This upfront set up work could be handled by an intern or a volunteer. Just ensure that you create the internal discipline to keep it going.

Do you have any secrets to impact story-gathering success? We’d love to hear them!


4 thoughts on “Effective Storytelling: 4 Ways to Get an Impact Story

  1. Hi Katie, Thank you for this excellent post. I am wondering if you have a best practices for creating waivers and gathering stories specifically from mental health providers? We are reviewing our own procedures and are researching what other groups do. Would love to hear the expertise from Stelter. Thank you for your consideration. Greetings to Bev Hutney!

    1. Thanks, Terri, it’s so meaningful to hear specific hurdles in the industry. I hope fellow planned giving professionals weigh in on their experiences in this post. Anecdotes we’ve heard include:
      1. Ensuring that the waiver forms are in-hand during consultations so that they don’t have to be revisited at a later time.
      2. Having an example impact one-sheet on-hand so that the participant can see the end goal.
      3. Offering anonymity if preferred.

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