What’s Your Story?

You’re in the process of crafting your social change message and checking off the items on your list:

  • Target Audience? Check.
  • Call To Action? Check.
  • Story? Che—hang on.

Are you sure you’ve got the best story for the message?  Every person in your ecosystem has a story that relates to your organization – from your founder to your funders, from the people your work can help to the people doing the work.  Which story will activate your target audience?  Is your “Mission” story the motivator you need? Or would a “Life Change” story be more effective? How about the story behind a large donation?
If you haven’t already, start collecting stories.  Reach out to everyone in your network, including your social media communities.  Develop questions specific to each group that encourage them to share personal stories. Use descriptive words that inspire them to think emotionally. Don’t use questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”
The examples below are meant to jumpstart your thinking.  You’ll obviously want to tailor the questions to your unique community:
  • Ask your volunteers:  What’s the most emotionally powerful experience you’ve had as a volunteer with us?
  • Ask your funders/donors: What have you seen, heard or experienced that inspired you to support our mission? What gets you most excited about our work/our results?
  • Ask your social media followers: What have you seen, heard or experienced that makes our work important to you?
  • Ask the beneficiaries of your programs:  What is something you’ll never forget about our program?
It’s worth doing this on a regular basis. Not only will you build a library of stories that can be used to inform strategy on many levels, collecting the stories will deepen your organization’s relationship with all of your stakeholders.
Stories are the most powerful tools you have to create change, and the right one can be the difference between just another message and messaging that makes a difference.  When you have a collection of stories from the breadth of your network, you’ll be able to choose the one most likely to connect with the target audience, so you can check off item #3 on your list with confidence.
Then, of course, there are a hundred and one ways to tell that story, and you’ll have to decide between them. But that’s a new check list, and another story.