What Is The Shelf Life Of A Story? Making The Most Of The Stories Your Nonprofit Shares

Madison GonzalezFebruary 18, 2021

What Is The Shelf Life Of A Nonprofit Story?

During a storytelling webinar I was presenting, one of the attendees asked a really solid and interesting question: What is the shelf life of a story? In other words, how long can we continue to share the same narratives and profiles with our audience before they become tired of hearing them?

We all know that sharing the stories of those we serve and those within our organization is an incredibly powerful form of communication. But how often should we be obtaining and sharing new stories and how long can our old stories last?

Before you despair, just remember that most people won’t tire of hearing a powerful narrative. Also, when it comes to building a brand, your audience needs to know, like, and trust you, which you can facilitate by sharing the same names and faces in different stories. That said, there is also some strategy for keeping the context fresh and engaging for your audience.

There is not a cut and dry answer, but this blog post will help identify some insights and options for stretching your stories and getting the most out of the hard work you have done to craft them. 

Segment your donor base

My first piece of advice is to segment your donor base. As you acquire new donors, you can share the same stories your veteran supporters may have already heard. Just because the constituents who have been loyal and following your organization for some time may remember the spotlight you shared on someone back in 2017, that doesn’t mean your new donors will have ever heard it. If you can segment your donor base and share stories with new constituents, they will never go stale.  

To do this, go to your donor communication platforms and create different groups based on when the constituent signed up for your communications. Consider creating a “welcome series” of emails for new donors or constituents. These can be automated and have the same stories in them every time because they will always be new to the reader.

Find one or two new success or spotlight stories to share annually

>For events, year-end campaigns, or other forms of communication you may send out annually, I recommend obtaining and sharing at least one or two new success or spotlight stories. This shows that your organization is constantly impacting new lives. 

You can also get creative on whose stories you choose to share if you feel like your “story well” is running dry. 

Consider sharing the story of a family member of someone who has benefited from your organization or a board member who has a compelling story for why they got involved with your organization in the first place. Maybe you could share the story of a devoted volunteer or a new staff member. These other sources of stories can especially come in handy in cases where protecting the anonymity and identity of your beneficiaries is important.

Look at the timeline that makes the most sense for your nonprofit

How long certain narratives last also depends on the organization. If your nonprofit is following a child through a journey of learning or following someone through a journey of healing, you may be able to spotlight one individual for a long period of time. Inviting the audience to become a part of the journey and sharing updates on the transformation could be a highly effective and engaging way to share just one story while consistently engaging your audience. 

That said, if your organization doesn’t have clients or residents or beneficiaries for long periods of time, this approach may be more difficult. Consider breaking up your stories into “episodes” with a beginning, middle, and end. This way, one person’s narrative can provide content for multiple posts or e-mails because you’re sharing their story in smaller, more digestible pieces.

The idea of storytelling is to create connections and share content that your audience will be interested in and inspired by. Take questions from your audience in what they enjoy engaging with. If your numbers start dropping, it may be time to switch up for stories.

Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

Filed Under:   Communication