OK, Main Character Syndrome may not be an actual mental health diagnosis (for now), but most of us have that one friend who thinks the world revolves around them and they deserve all the credit and attention.
I am not saying we shouldn’t be the protagonist in our own story, BUT there is a fine line between advocating for ourselves confidently and thinking everyone around us is just a supporting character here to serve us.
We have to understand that sometimes we are the supporting characters to our family, friends and even complete strangers.
When those people share stories about their day around the dinner table, you won’t be the main character – they will. But that doesn’t mean you weren’t a meaningful part of their day.
It’s the same for nonprofit storytelling.
Let’s take a look at one of the plots we suggest nonprofits use when crafting a story: The Challenge Plot.
Think of almost any Hollywood movie where:
- An underdog wins
- A character goes from rags to riches
- A character triumphs against all odds
These types of stories inspire action and appeal to our courage and strength. People leave the theater thinking “I can do anything!”
The challenge plot is a basic, three–act structure:
Act 1: You start by introducing a character and her situation and goals.
Act 2: She faces obstacle to reaching those goals and the tension mounts. Will everything work out? Usually not until things get even worse.
Act 3: The action peaks and we get to the big climax where our heroine finally triumphs! We get a big emotional payoff in the end.
So what act do you think the nonprofit should first appear?
If you said Act 1, then your nonprofit may have main character syndrome. While your organization may have had a huge impact on the character, the story is not about you. It is about them and how they overcame. In most cases, your nonprofit shouldn’t appear in the story until Act 3 as just part of the supporting cast that helps the main character get over their barriers.
You have more than likely been told that client stories make great content for appeals. And they do. But a lot of nonprofits then mistakenly think that since they are using the story to raise money, they need the reader to know how important and awesome their organization is. This leads to the story focusing on the nonprofit itself instead.
You need to know that the people who allow you to share their stories DO NOT SERVE YOU and your nonprofit’s need to fundraise. You serve them.
You do not deserve all of the credit for their transformation. You are not the hero. They are. Make sure your stories reflect that.