5 Must-Haves of a Successful Nonprofit Story


Last month I had the pleasure of attending a storytelling workshop led by Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center. Andy is a national expert on storytelling and his session was engaging, insightful and packed with tips on how to create a compelling story for nonprofits. Here are Andy’s “must-haves” for a successful story:

1. A Protagonist

The protagonist is the “main character” of your story, the person through whose eyes the story is told. Your protagonist could be someone served by your mission or it could be a staff member or volunteer at your organization. Because people connect with people, your protagonist is the critical element to ensure that your readers, viewers or listeners connect with your story. 

2. A Goal

To move your story forward, your protagonist needs to have a goal which, of course, should be related to your mission. For example, if your organization’s mission is to provide scholarships to help low-income students from your community to attend and graduate from college, your protagonist might be a high school student named Charlie. Charlie’s goal is to earn a college degree and ultimately get a good job. 

3. A Barrier

What story would be worth its salt without an obstacle to overcome? If Charlie has the financial resources to attend any college of his choosing, where’s the drama? Where’s the struggle? It’s only when we know that Charlie’s family is homeless and his parents don’t have enough money to buy food for the family that the story becomes compelling. How will Charlie find enough money for college if there’s not even money for food?

4. Overcoming the Barrier

Charlie has searched for scholarships. But because he started the process late, many scholarships have been awarded to other students or none that remain are a good fit for his circumstances. Finally, a friend tells Charlie about your organization’s scholarships and it’s a match! Because of your nonprofit, Charlie secures a scholarship that enables him to attend a good school and begin his college career.

5. Meaning

The best stories illustrate a “meaning.” For example, the meaning of your story about Charlie might be that hard work pays off. Or, that all students, regardless of their economic status, deserve the opportunity to attend college.

Final tips: An emotional pull is critical – people need to care before they’ll act. And, “this happened to me” is the most powerful way to tell a story.

Take a peek at one fabulous sample video story shared by Andy Goodman here

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click). 

What are your tips for creating or telling stories about your nonprofit’s work? Please share in the Comments box below!