If you’re like most non-profit professionals, you’ve got a million things on your plate every week. You go between calling donors, entering data into the database, answering emails, and maybe even getting that social media post out. It’s a lot. And in the midst of having a million and one things to do, non-profit storytelling can feel like a “nice to have.”
But the reality is that storytelling for non-profits is a “must-have.” As I wrote in an article for Wild Apricot, Storytelling is a tool nonprofits can use in a variety of ways including to improve fundraising and communications, create immersive website experiences, or engaging social media relationships. Stories have the ability to help you explain your impact and your theory of change while compelling people to action. They truly are a necessity for non-profit fundraising and communications.
In this article, I’m going to show you 3 time saving strategies that will help you tell high quality, compelling non-profit stories.
Reminder: Quality over Quantity is What We’re Going for
I can’t talk about time saving storytelling strategies without starting with one really important piece of advice. When it comes to non-profit storytelling, the goal is quality, not quantity. You might look at other organizations’ social media feeds or websites, and feel pressured to be telling a story in every piece of content you produce. This is 1) not sustainable and 2) not going to lead you to telling your very best stories.
As we get into the three time saving tips for non-profit storytelling, take the pressure off yourself and remember that one story can sometimes be more powerful than ten stories.
Strategy #1: Set Goals to Make Your Storytelling Efforts Worthwhile
While it can be tempting to just fling yourself into work, in the case of non-profit storytelling, it’s better to slow down to speed up. What I mean by this is taking time to align your campaigns, messaging and stories so that they are working in concert with each other. I always say never tell a story for the sake of telling a story (more on that here) and I say it often because I see so many organizations creating content just for the sake of it.
Your time, energy, and effort are precious resources so it makes sense to put those things to use in a goal-oriented way. Let me give you an example of how I do this in our Monthly Content Planner Kit which you can download a copy of here.
Inside the Monthly Content Planner Kit, we start by looking at the top level of your activity. Do you have a fundraising campaign going on? Do you have a communications initiative or an awareness campaign that you’re building? Maybe you have an event? Forecasting the activity helps us see the what for our communications.
From there, we can map out the how, and which channels you want to communicate on. By taking a big picture look at your channels, you might realize that one is a priority, or perhaps a specific communication or fundraising piece is a priority this month. Identifying that is super helpful because it shows you where your highest impact storytelling opportunities exist.
And finally, we get to the stories. Now that you know what you want to communicate and how you want to communicate it, you can find a story that is the best fit for the piece.
Strategy #2: Source Your Story with Less Effort
Finding a great story to tell can be a time consuming part of the process so let’s talk about some ways you can source your story with less effort.
Start with Repurposing Old Stories
Repurposing content you’ve already created is a great time saving strategy for non-profit storytelling. It’s also a way to get more mileage out of content that you’ve already created. Talk about a win-win!
You can go through your channel archives to look at what you’ve created or you can sift through your content bank. Your non-profit creates a ton of content every month, which is why it’s worth having a content bank. A content bank is a central place where you track every piece of content you create including copy, links, photos, and stories. The benefit of taking the extra time to create and manage a content bank is that you have an easy place to turn to for content repurposing.
Work Your Relationships
Repurposing content not in the cards for you? There are still ways you can save time finding stories to tell by doing good ol’ fashion outreach.
First and foremost with people that you have existing relationships within your organization. Maybe you have a great relationship with a program staffer that you could work with on a story. Perhaps you have a handful of donors that you talk to regularly that could be featured in a story. By starting with your closest relationships, you are more likely to get traction.
Beyond your closest relationships, look for low-hanging fruit opportunities where you can make a direct ask for a story. Staff meetings are great for this.
Strategy #3: Save Time During the Writing Process
Writing the story and the piece of content is another time consuming step in the process. But it doesn’t have to be! Here are some time-saving tips to help you write faster.
- Free Write – Free writing is where you set a timer (usually for 10 minutes) and just start writing. This can help you get through the initial hesitation of writing and get into the flow.
- Make an Outline – Creating a solid outline for your story is a great way to get into the writing flow. When you know what your high-level points are, you can work in smaller chunks to fill in the spaces in between. Here’s my best outline for non-profit stories.
- Record and Transcribe – This is my ultimate time-saving writing tip. I use a recording app and then transcribe what I recorded as a very rough first draft. If you have a Google Pixel phone, Google Recorder is a free app with a free transcription service that is very easy to use. In addition to Google Recorder, I frequently use Sonix for transcription. If you want to try Sonix, use this link to get 30 minutes of transcription free.
Still feeling the writer’s block? Here are 25 ways to get past it.
Now you’ve got a tool box full of time-saving tips and tricks for non-profit storytelling. To recap, here’s a quick list for easy reference.
- Set goals to make your storytelling efforts worthwhile
- Repurpose your content
- Work your relationships for story leads
- Free write
- Make an outline
- Record and transcribe