marketing mission Blog

The Fundamentals of Storytelling for Nonprofits

April 15, 2023

marketing mission Blog

The Fundamentals of Storytelling for Nonprofits

April 15, 2023

Storytelling and Brand Messaging for Nonprofits

When it comes to marketing your nonprofit organization, it's crucial that everyone on the team is on the same page. That's why having a nonprofit brand messaging guide is so important - it ensures that everyone knows the key points you want to get across, and they can use this information to create content that aligns with your overall strategy. 

In this video and the content below, we will help you create a cohesive and consistent brand messaging guide to ensure everyone in your organization is on the same page regarding your messaging. 

We’ve split messaging into two parts - and today we’re chatting about how to keep your team on the same page when it comes to how to write and talk about your organization through the development of a brand messaging guide. . 

Not only will a nonprofit brand messaging guide allow your team to be on the page but it has many other benefits including: 

  • It is crucial for building trust with your audience. When they see the same message across different channels, they know that you are an organization they can rely on.
  • A guide can make it easier for new members of your team to get up to speed quickly, and can be used as a tool on how to communicate on behalf of the organization. 
  • Messaging guides utilized by everyone can help you track your progress and ensure that you are constantly evolving and improving your messaging strategy.
  • Lastly, it can help team members feel confident in delivering the organization's message while creating a unified sense of shared ownership and responsibility for the brand, further improving your brand identity. 

Chances are you didn’t learn the ins and outs of storytelling when researching how to market your organization and may not know how to implement it in your messaging guide. That’s okay, because that’s where we come in. 

By learning and understanding the fundamentals of a story, you can develop a repeatable communications toolkit that your team and board can use to spread the word about your impact.

Nonprofits can leverage storytelling to humanize your organization’s cause. Donors and supporters are looking for a way to make positive change. We utilize storytelling in marketing campaigns by beginning with a question that outlines the problem your organization is seeking to solve. Next, rather than focusing on the problem, cast a vision for the future that your organization envisions, then position your organization as the guide to achieve this future. Then transition into an empathy statement to help connect with your audience and then demonstrate that your organization has authority when it comes to solving the problem at hand. Lastly, encourage your audience to join your cause with a call to action! 

This may seem like a lot, but we will explain each specific storytelling step in more detail down below. 

Controlling Idea

The controlling idea is ultimately the main focus and purpose of your campaign. We only focus on one controlling idea, adding too many can distract from the ultimate purpose and confuse your viewers. The brain can only take action on one idea at a time, therefore simplifying your message is crucial. The controlling idea is crucial because it’s the idea you’re trying to get people to memorize. If you don’t have one, no one will know what your campaign is really about.

Story Question

The story question is the question you want people to ask themselves when they see your content. By proposing a question, you keep your audience engaged and inspire them to take action.

People love to solve problems and answer questions, and by asking a very direct question in your content, you trigger the emotion directly correlated to problem-solving. The only way viewers will know the problem to solve is if you put the actual question in your campaign.

Cast a Vision for the Future 

When you’re telling a story, it’s important to not only focus on the present but also cast a vision for the future. This is where you invite your audience to see what could happen if they supported your cause or mission. It’s important that we stay positive during this part of the storytelling process and avoid focusing on the negative. By doing this, you give your audience hope of what they could help create while also inspiring them to take action.

Position Your Organization as the Guide

In most stories there is always someone who shows up to help the hero accomplish their goals. We call these people the trusted guides. Your nonprofit is the trusted guide. You're not the hero in the story, your audience is. When you position yourself as the guide, you are the expert in the story here to ensure the hero wins. The hero needs to take action and you are here to tell them how. Positioning yourself as the guide demonstrates empathy and authority.


A one-liner is a phrase or sentence clearly stating what you do and why you do it. It’s the elevator pitch of your organization. The who, what, and why should all be present in this one sentence. This sentence should be clear and concise so that people understand exactly who you are and what you’re doing within seconds. A simple and direct one-liner can be included in posts, videos, and campaigns as a way to quickly explain your mission.

Empathy Statement

Demonstrating empathy is crucial to connecting with your audience on an emotional level. Ultimately we want to make your audience feel something when they are engaging with your content

Statement of Authority or Competency

After you have expressed empathy, it's time to demonstrate your organization's authority to deliver on this solution. A statement of authority or competency uses success stories, statistics, testimonials, and other social proof to demonstrate that your organization is fully competent and capable of addressing the problem. This section helps ease any doubts the viewer may have about your organization's competency.

Call to Action

With any communications campaign, you have to spell out your call to action and tell your audience exactly what you need them to do. Without a call to action, people are left wondering what they are supposed to do to get involved.

There are two kinds of call-to-action statements: primary and secondary. Primary calls to action are short, direct, and urgent. They ask the viewer to take immediate action by donating or signing up for your cause. Secondary calls to action are longer and more specific. They give the viewer more information about how they can get involved and what steps they need to take. Both types of calls to action are important for engaging your audience and getting them involved in your campaign.

Brand Stories 

People are often moved to donate or get involved with a nonprofit after hearing a story about how the organization has helped the community they seek to serve. This is why we recommend sharing testimonials and stories because it is a great way to connect with your audience and show them the impact your organization has on the world. 

Stories humanize your issue, and when you build empathy and connection with your audience, they are more likely to donate or get involved. Sharing stories also build authority for your organization, because when someone takes the time to write a testimonial, it means they trust you and your organization. 

So compile a few impactful stories and testimonials to have at arms reach, they are a powerful way to engage an audience and inspire them to take action! 

In conclusion, storytelling is a powerful tool to engage your audience and inspire them to take action. There are several key elements that should be incorporated in any story you tell, such as positioning yourself as the guide, crafting an effective one-liner, expressing empathy for your audience, displaying authority and competency through success stories and testimonials, and ending with a strong call to action. By weaving these elements together, you can create an impactful and effective story that will move your audience to take action and support your cause.

So have courage, be creative, and start telling stories today!

If you struggle with any of these things, guess what? That's what I do here at Marketing Mission: Maximized Marketing. The Maximized Marketing Intensive is an experience where in just one week, we create your valuable Nonprofit Marketing Toolkit™ - the powerful assets you need to streamline your marketing and free you to increase impact and funding without losing your mind. 

If you feel like the Maximized Marketing Intensive would be beneficial, hop on my calendar so we can talk more about this.

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