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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

The power of storytelling for nonprofits: how to craft compelling narratives


In the current online-based business landscape, online content can make or break awareness of an organization. For nonprofits, this content can help get an organization’s name in front of the people who need it most in the form of blog content, newsletters, social media posts, and more. 

Storytelling is using written content to relay a message. It can be used to build crucial relationships between an organization and its audience, as well as adding a personal touch to a brand’s online presence. In its most effective form, storytelling creates an association between an organization and what it stands for. 

For beginners to the storytelling process, there are a number of goals to keep in mind as you write.

Demonstrate impact

Impact stories can show firsthand the effect that your organization has on the community it serves. They often contain inspiring messages that push people to act. Impact stories not only emphasize a nonprofit’s work, but they also bring a human touch to an otherwise theoretical subject. Rather than nameless and faceless statistics, impact stories foster connection in ways that leave a lasting impression on readers. 

To show impact in your storytelling try things like:

  1. Emphasizing personal details. These can be as small as a person’s age, or as large as their personal struggles. The goal is to show the human side of your story’s subject. 
  2. Following a compelling narrative. The subject matter of your story should grip the reader’s emotions in a way that they won’t soon forget. 

Reference this story about the nonprofit organization Joy Bus Diner for an example of impact storytelling done well. 

Share a photo

For online mediums such as social media platforms, visuals are an extremely important element of content. A well-done photo or video can elevate any written piece to new heights by catching a viewers attention. According to the Search Engine Journal, web content that is accompanied by a visual element receives up to 94% more views than text-only content. 

To harness the full effect of visual storytelling, consider: 

  1. Investing in a professional. A professional photographer, videographer, or graphic designer can design eye-catching and effective visuals for maximum impact. 
  2. Use high-quality images. Blurry and pixelated images are not only unclear, they often look unprofessional and can even push viewers away

Reach the right audience

The power of storytelling is nullified if your story is in front of the wrong people. A story with something to say is rarely equally impactful to everyone. Depending on your specific message and goal, it is important to consider your target audience before, during and after the writing process.

To identify and reach your organization’s target audience:

  1. Consider what you want to achieve. Setting a goal for your story will help you identify your audience. When you have a goal in mind, keep in mind who you need to reach in order to achieve it. 
  2. Resonate with your audience. The subject matter and message of your story will be different depending on who you want to reach. People often prefer content that they relate to, so don’t be afraid to get specific. 

The most successful nonprofits are often those with the greatest stories to tell. With so many means and methods of producing and sharing stories online, there are countless opportunities for organizations to take advantage of in expanding their reach and impact. 

Illustration by Lillian Finley / ASU Lodestar Center

Learn more with our Nonprofit Marketing and Strategic Communications Certificate

The Nonprofit Marketing and Strategic Communications Certificate is a program for individuals who wish to gain additional knowledge and skills in marketing, communication, public relations and social media within the nonprofit sector. Course content is sharply focused to  include the most relevant topics needed to lead and manage marketing and communication strategies for nonprofit organizations and offers the individual a deeply engaging and robust experience.

Lillian Finley headshot


ASU Lodestar Center Blog