Telling Your Non-Profit’s Story
Like any professional field, storytelling is a craft. And can be really hard to do. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting started on your storytelling journey.
Our tip is to hire a professional copywriter, or use an agency like Pareto. We offer programs and training that can help your charity become a stellar storytelling organisation.
If you’d prefer to do it on your own, then our recommendation is to find the best writers from within your own charity to help you craft your organisation’s storylines.
To help you out, here are a few tips that we’ve learnt at Pareto from interviewing hundreds of people who have received help from charities. We hope they inspire you!
Collecting your stories – tips learned from lots of interviews
It’s a conversation, not an interview
Interviews can run the risk of being dry – or they can give people stage fright. So, make it a conversation, or ask if you can have a chat for a few minutes.
One of life’s great joys is hearing other people’s life stories. Use your questions as a guide only and enjoy the conversation instead. Don’t be afraid to go off script.
Do your homework
You can’t do enough research. Know your subject, know the issues and know what your audience would like to hear.
Begin your research with the end story in mind and backtrack from there to draft your questions.
Remember your audience
Know who they are, what they care about and what is likely to move them to take action.
If you start your planning from where your audience is, you’ll have better interviews.
Share your own stories
Sometimes – not always – to make your interviewee open up their heart, you need to reveal something real and true about yourself.
It’s about both parties showing their vulnerability and connecting.
This can be difficult to do, as you always want to know what your next question will be.
But by truly listening, you may veer off in a different direction – and you’ll be surprised and delighted where the conversation may go.
Ask open-ended questions
Try to start your conversation with questions or commentary with words like “how” and “why”.
It’s hard for your interviewee to give you just a yes/no answer when you use these words.
Use a recording device
“Would you mind slowing down so that I can get this all written down?” If that doesn’t kill an interview, then we don’t know what will.
To be able to truly listen, use a recording device. And don’t forget to always ask if it’s OK to record your interview.
Invest in a good recorder so that you never run out of batteries – or storage space. And then get on with your conversation.
All of the above are tried and true, but they won’t work without one simple quality on your part: curiosity.
A true passion for knowing more about the people around you goes further than any formal communications training.
If you’re stressed or focused on your list of questions, everyone around you will be too.
Take a deep breath, relax and remember that the best conversations are the enjoyable conversations.
The more conversations you have, the better you will get at finding those amazing stories.
Interview your staff, clients and beneficiaries all year round, so you can capture good material as it happens. Build a storybank and create a steady flow of stories to tell your donors.
And one last point to remember – be prepared for anything. Interviewing for non-profits is unique. You’re talking with people who have been – or are – in crisis. Listen actively and be prepared for lots of different emotions like anger and tears.
Always be empathetic and prepared to change direction to keep everyone comfortable.