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Telling Your Story: The Importance of Communicating Why

Telling Your Story: The Importance of Communicating Why

The key to gaining additional donors, extended support, and deeper community understanding lies within your storytelling strategy. Explaining your nonprofit's true essence leads to the quickening of your mission and an increased impact on your audience. And that’s because people relate to meaningful narratives.

We aren’t talking about “once upon a time” stories. Instead, we are talking about the importance of detailing your mission – your “why” – to your following. It’s one of the most important things you can do. Here’s why:


”I know it by heart”


Think of the stories you learned as a child. Notice the word “learned.” Some of the tales you were exposed to in your younger years are hundreds of years old. Why have they thrived? Before we look at what turns a story into something that’s learned and repeated (rather than just heard), we need to look at delivery method.


Scientific studies suggest that our brains are hardwired for storytelling. We will even turn things that aren’t stories into anecdotes. Does the information lack a plotline? The details are more likely to escape our minds.


Consistency trumps plausibility. When stories are repeated enough times, the content sticks to our subconscious; we naturally remember the details. There’s an immense benefit if you can transform your NPO into a storytelling organization.


A storytelling organization


There’s no way a leader alone can maintain the direction chosen to achieve an organization’s strategic goals. Enter the course-corrector of storytelling. It’s easy to keep everyone in your organization on the same page when they immerse themselves in the story of your mission.


The tale creates one voice that is told by many. And the objective is that it explains your “why.” Donors especially need to hear your “why.”


Why YOU need to know your “why”


Do you know Simon Sinek? He’s been deified by the Silicon Valley set for his insistence that you’ll be successful if you sell your vision as opposed to selling your product. Vision—isn’t that a synonym for mission?


If Mr. Sinek’s name doesn’t ring a bell, take a moment to watch his brilliant TED Talk. He explains that leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, and change when they start with what he calls the “golden circle” of an organization. Everything, according to Sinek, starts with asking the question “why?”


“People don’t buy what you do,” he explains. “People buy how you do it.” Few statements have more relevance for philanthropic organizations. When your NPO starts talking about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe. It’s that simple.


Painting the bigger picture


Talk about a perfect storm. A storytelling organization is aligned to communicate the explanation of your mission. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s a good start, but it’s not enough.


It’s fivefold. Storytelling organizations must:

  1. Identify the “why” and distill it into one or more compelling stories
  2. Remain open to adding outcomes, thus extending the value of their story
  3. Adopt an attitude of relentless pursuit to find new ways to communicate the “why”
  4. Engage at all levels. Yes, there are official ambassadors with high-ranking titles. Even so, everyone in the organization should be able to bring forth the shared story of the group’s mission
  5. Constantly evaluate how storytelling can be made more effective

Broad application of a narrow focus


Is your annual report the only document that gets full scrutiny of what it communicates to stakeholders and the public? Change the way you approach this. Your “why” story will be simple. It’ll be something that everyone in your organization can adopt and push out to those who interact with you.