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By Angeline Mau + Annette Power

"The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story.” - Michael Margolis

Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience. A good story can inspire, influence and encourage people to think or act differently. This also holds true for non-profit organizations. Effective storytelling can help your non-profit build relationships, attract donors and help fundraising efforts.

With that being said, great storytelling is hard. In our experience working with clients in the non-profit sector, many think they’re great at it, until they realize they’re not. Storytelling should invoke emotion, bring about a sense of urgency and most importantly, compel the reader to take action. When resources are stretched, every storytelling opportunity matters. 

If this sounds familiar, improve your next story by avoiding the five most common storytelling mistakes:

1. Not understanding your audience

The internet is filled with stories. So much so, it can feel near impossible to catch audience’s attention. And if you don’t understand your audience, it can be difficult to create content that will resonate with them. That’s why audience research is crucial. Understanding the demographics, psychographics and behaviours of a specific, targeted group of people can help storytellers connect with their audience and tell better stories.

2 Using words only few understand

Jargon can help particular groups communicate complex ideas easily. To those that don’t understand however, jargon is downright confusing. Eliminate a potential disconnect with readers by using their language and avoiding words only industry professionals will understand (hint: audience research can help).  


3. Positioning your organization as the hero

A compelling story should have a hero but it shouldn’t be your non-profit. An individual protagonist overcoming conflict makes a much more convincing story than one about a faceless organization. Good stories make lasting impressions in people’s minds. If that’s not enough to convince you, research shows a good story is far more memorable than any set of facts-no matter how shocking.


4. Lack of visuals

In today’s fast paced world, there is certainly no shortage of information. Unfortunately, this means storytellers have a shorter time frame to capture audiences attention. Visuals, such as photos and videos, can help non-profits succeed and stand out. And if there’s one thing we've noticed throughout our careers, it doesn’t always require a large budget. Try adding photos to blog posts, or telling your story through video instead.


5. Not including a call-to-action

So you’ve created an inspiring story and it’s sparked interest. Now what? What would you like your audience to do with that information? Answer that and you have a call-to-action (CTA). Implementing a CTA encourages readers to take action and get involved. It could be anything from asking for donations to sharing the story on social media and everything in between.

Now that you know what not to do when writing a great story, you’re well on your way to

becoming a great storyteller. If you’re struggling to tell stories that will connect with your audience and attract donors, let’s talk!

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