With all apologies for what will read like a self-promoting perspective, the idea of stories seems to be everywhere in the nonprofit sector and beyond. Nonprofits, corporate America, individuals – we’re all being asked what we’ve been asking all along, “So, what’s your story”? But are we all ready to tell our stories? Are nonprofits really ready to tell their stories in a meaningful and compelling way that will engage the various constituents in a manner that will help them not justknowmore about the nonprofit organization, but why the nonprofit organization does what it does and why it matters?
Maybe that nonprofit organization is yours. And maybe it’s time you find the power in developing your organization’s story to help you achieve whatever objectives it has before it.
The value of story as part of your nonprofit’s DNA may never be more important, or timely. Stories are what all humans have in common – they are what connect us individually – and they are what connect your organization to those you serve, your boards, donors, volunteers and all of your constituents. Why? Because every organization has a story or two worth being told (I mentioned this would sound self-promoting) and retold.
The International Journal of Information Technology and Management published an article about why stories are so powerful. The article cited four reasons, reasons that we help organizations consider as they look at crafting their most meaningful and compelling stories:
Stories are universal, crossing boundaries of language, culture and age. What nonprofit isn’t faced with the need to be relevant to its audiences of today and tomorrow and not only the audiences of yesterday. This means finding the “voice” for your organization that resonates with your changing constituents – constituents that are culturally, generationally and demographically different than what they used to be.
Stories mirror human thought. Evidence from neurology and psychology concludes that humans think in narrative structures – in story form – more than ideas explained with logic and deep analysis.
Stories define who we are, and they define who our organizations are. They are our sense of identity which gets forged by the stories we tell. Have a memorable aunt or uncle? Why? A safe bet is they are memorable because of the stories that surround their lives.
Stories align and motivate by portraying the world in vivid terms that build emotional connection among constituents giving them a sense of shared purpose. Makes sense that your fund development director needs stories to share with donor prospects that will help strike a chord of shared purpose and connection that motivates the desired behavior.
As the article continued, “In essence, stories transcend time, space, culture and even truth. Events take place but once, reverberating ever after in the form of a story. We dream stories. Our memories come from stories. Our senses lead us to stories.”