Storytelling in the CBO/nonprofit sector is typically geared for funders, and elite funders at that (e.g. think big dollars). This makes sense. Funders expect that your organization is doing careful data collection and reporting on the impact of the awarded dollars on people’s lives. Formal reports and annual fundraiser events feature stories.
Yet, even an audience that isn’t tied to big dollars is still tied to the success of the mission of your organization.
This audience is comprised of “benefactors” or program participants. This audience is unfortunately treated not as an audience to cater to but as a group who is in need. Outreach activities are common, coordinating events to draw in individuals and families who may benefit from your program or service.
1.) Engage program participants with storytelling as an intentional audience.
2.) Using two sorts of information or data, craft the stories with the intention to share them through social media, text messaging, and storytelling community circles. [As of June 2018, we now offer this tip through our coaching service.]
Details About the Overlooked Audience
The most important thing to understand about storytelling with this audience is that the successes of program participants not only have meaning for big dollar funders; the successes inspire and incubate trust with prospective and current program participants. Program participants gain tremendously from storytelling about the experiences of being enrolled in your organization’s program and what life is like after completing the program.
There are not often dollars tied to this audience and, hence, they get overlooked as a space to invest in for storytelling. But how much more successful might program participants be in terms of completing the duration of a program and/or implementing the new knowledge or skills if storytelling of the difficulties and successes of peers is the backdrop of engaging in your organization?
The Data to Use
The stories of difficulties and successes of peers who were enrolled in the program need two types of information. First, the storyteller will use examples from their experiences before, during, and after enrollment in the program. In the Storytelling mini-Course that we designed for professionals in Human Services and Education organizations, we refer to this as the “ground level,” sharing from the individual’s lived experiences.
Second, the storyteller will use examples from quantitative data that the organization can supply; these examples help listeners to understand that the individual’s experiences are part of a widely lived experience for a group of people or population. For example, if the storyteller is a young person who has experiences surviving a suicide attempt and completed a program with your organization to transform the environment that led-up to the attempt, then the “level two” conveys the experiences of the population of young people who have likewise survived. The data examples will illustrate for listeners the factors involved in these young people’s lives (e.g. bullying, isolation, etc.). The “level two” data expands the listener’s understanding of the storyteller and the storyteller’s role in sharing on behalf of the population.
The delivery of storytelling here might be short videos on social media as well as texted to prospective and ongoing program participants. Also, we emphasize the value of coordinating storytelling community circles where partnering organizations come together to share featured stories; this is ideal for gathering this audience in an intimate and meaningful event. To prepare for such an event, we recommend the Storytelling mini-Course where storytellers can develop their stories for sharing-out.
Why did we develop “2 Tips” videos?
The Anchoring Success team trusts the talent and sophistication of professionals in Human Services and Education organizations. We know that many professionals and organizational leaders do not have the funds to partner with specialists (like us) and/or the time to strategize on what might seem like extra projects.
Therefore, we launched these “2 Tips” videos to make tweaks, adjustments, and refinements to programs and operations doable for busy professionals in these organizations!