Storytelling has always been a natural fit for faith-based charities. But as the online, digital-first world becomes more crowded, crafting a powerful narrative is more important than ever.
When these organizations leverage faith, faith-based charities can motivate their constituents to take action, no matter how grim or unlikely the circumstances appear.
As powerful as faith can be, faith alone won’t push these organizations forward in achieving their goals. If faith were enough to feed the hungry or provide shelter for the less fortunate, then faith-based charities wouldn’t be so necessary in this world.
Faith-based charities face unique challenges in comparison to their secular counterparts. However, they should not avoid capitalizing on similar techniques other nonprofits use to engage constituents and retain donors for longer.
Storytelling is an effective device by which nonprofits and faith-based charities alike can connect with donors old and new. The difference with faith-based organizations lies in how the right narrative has the potential to resonate on a much deeper level than donors of an organization who are not connected by faith.
Continue on to learn a few ways faith-based charities can develop better and more impactful storytelling.
Goal Setting & What to Communicate
The most important step with regards to storytelling and narrative is to consider what your organization wishes to achieve. Is it to attract donors, improve fundraising revenue, promote new campaigns or projects?
Keep in mind how to craft a story that satisfies each of these different goals.
For example, let’s say your charity provides shelter for the homeless and you want to attract new volunteers. You may want to sit down with a long-time volunteer to get a sense of why they continue to give up their time and highlight what they get in return for their hard work. Whether it’s satisfaction from making a difference or leaning on their faith, these personal stories can be used over and over to resonate with people who look for the same things in volunteering.
Once you have defined what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish, always make sure any storytelling somehow communicates your organization’s core values. By doing so, maintaining consistent messaging is easier to achieve, and it’s more apparent why your organization matters.
Storytelling has been a staple in the human social experience for thousands of years; we are hardwired to be present and engaged when we listen to stories.
Because of the social nature of storytelling, every good story needs the audience to understand the motivations of all actors and parties involved. The audience needs characters to empathize with or root against.
For faith-based charities, there are three primary character types.
- The problem or issue the charity is trying to solve (antagonist): Faith-based charities exist for the same reason businesses do—to solve problems. Every charity is trying to overcome specific issues and needs the support of donors and volunteers to make it happen. An essential element to a story is a bad guy to thwart.
- The real people touched by the organization (central or minor characters): From recipients to volunteers, these characters are vital to the development and resolution of conflict. In other words, these characters are either the people who have benefited most from the work of the organization or made a meaningful contribution to the story.
- The organization itself (protagonist): The charity should always represent the central character to the story; a hero to overcome adversity. In turn, the audience should clearly understand what motivates the protagonist and why they do what they do.
Each of the above character types fulfills different roles in the narrative process. No matter which character type you choose to highlight, aim to develop a story which references how the character influenced the end results.
Conflict & Resolution
Another key component of a well-crafted, engaging story is to lay out the sequence of events. Like every great movie, book, or bedtime story, there is always some conflict or challenge to overcome. The structure of the story explains how things came to pass.
No matter if you’re drawing attention to personal stories about real people or the organization as a whole, the narrative structure should be easy to comprehend with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
The organization itself will always be the device by which the story can reach a satisfying end, but none of it would be possible without the help of minor characters—i.e., donors and volunteers.
Inspiring Hope & Action
People yearn to be a part of something greater, and faith-based charities have the potential to leverage something that can be equally powerful as faith. Storytelling for faith-based organizations should always seek to inspire hope.
Should your storytelling resonate with your donors and prospects on a deeply personal level, hope can then motivate these individuals to take action. Hope is a big reason why many constituents become involved, and storytelling is an incredible method of instilling that hope.
Once properly motivated, all faith-based charities need to make it abundantly clear how supporters can help their cause move forward. Depending on what goals you’re trying to accomplish, your story should encourage your audience to take a specific action.
End with Impact
In the end, the most critical thing to communicate in all storytelling is how supporter involvement is the driving factor behind what the organization can achieve. Donors give to their faith-based charities of choice because they believe in the mission and they want to make a difference. They are more likely to continue giving back if they understand the value of their contributions.
It is so crucial to articulate how the dedication of donors and volunteers feeds into the organization’s overall goals and objectives.
When highlighting previous successes or crafting a narrative around your most loyal supporters:
- Always demonstrate the value your supporters
- Make it easy to understand how to contribute
With over 25 years of experience—selling everything from supplements to luxury aircraft—it would be easy to just chalk Jeff up as a highly-specialized sales professional. But, Jeff works in the nonprofit sector because he’s passionate about being a change agent, helping clients fulfil their missions with precise technology. He is a true partner with his nonprofit clients in the Cultural, Faith-Based and Human Services markets. Jeff’s favorite people to spend time with are his two teenage sons, especially when they are watching University of South Carolina sports. He’s a diving junkie, a weekend singer and performer of character voices to crack up clients and friends alike.