Storytelling for your Nonprofit: Best and worst practices

Image credit - Fresh Air Photo from www.storytellingcenter.net
Image credit – Fresh Air Photo from http://www.storytellingcenter.net

I’d like to start by thanking readers for the positive responses to my last piece. I had suspected that writing about marketing for Nonprofits might be a niche where I can contribute, and you verified that suspicion with your encouragement through email and social media. With that in mind, I am going to stay on the topic of Nonprofits – this time with more attention to the tactics used to communicate the value of your organization to the public.

I am currently taking a Content Marketing course as part of my graduate program at St. Lawrence College, and our focus for the past few weeks is on the role of storytelling in content marketing campaigns. So, I set about hunting for blogs and articles that apply this concept to Nonprofit marketing, and there is no shortage of blogs with hints and tricks. I’m going to share some of the highlights (for me), but if you are playing a Fundraising or Communications role in a Nonprofit, I will recommend that you go ahead and make the search for yourself…after you’re done reading, of course.

The first article I am going to highlight is Why Nonprofits Need to Be Storytellers. This piece is done in an interview format, which I find easy to digest through the separation of topics. However, the primary reason I chose this one is because before you figure out the ‘How’ to execute a concept, you need to ask ‘Why’. Here is an excerpt that gets to the heart of the matter:

We have stories in our brains about how the world works. And they act like filters. They act like software. The stories tell us what facts to accept and what facts to reject. So whenever you’re trying to influence someone’s behavior, you have to ask yourself first, “What story is in their brain? What stories are they holding onto that make them behave the way they do? And if I want to change that, you need to ask yourself, “What new story can I give them?”

The interview ends with a couple of solid examples of how storytelling helped contribute to a couple of successful Nonprofit campaigns – which makes for a good transition to best practices. There are a lot of articles out there with tips to help you tell stories for Nonprofits. The article I would like to highlight is ‘Nonprofit Storytelling: Seven Tips for Sharing Stories About Your Work. I chose this article because the site itself looks like it could be a useful tool, and the post is quick and streamlined list that got me thinking about ways that I could tell better stories for the organizations that I am involved with. This is especially true for Tip #7:

The best stories are told by the person themselves. Clients telling their own stories are the most moving way to share how your organization makes a difference.

This kind of storytelling is the most prevalent in politics, where testimonials and personal recommendations mean so much. If someone tells a story about how a representative/party was willing and able to listen and respond to their issues, it means so much more than if I am simply self-promoting. Unfortunately, I also came to the realization that with my work as the Fundraising Chair for Kingston Community House, I had (so far) completely missed the opportunity to let our members tell the story of our value to the community. It’s a mistake that I hope to change ASAP.

Some honest and thoughtful reflection is a must when you are part of a volunteer-based organization, and I recommend that you set aside a block of time to do this after any event or campaign. However, I think we could all benefit from avoiding those mistakes in the first place, so I will leave you with ‘9 Storytelling Mistakes Your Nonprofit May Be Making’. The most significant point on this list is 7) Silo-ing the Storytellers. It is very easy to forget that the role of collecting and telling stories belongs to all volunteers and workers in an organization. Please remember: Sometimes your Fundraising Chair feels horribly alone with the task.

I’ll leave you with some video content, so you can see how Nonprofit storytelling works through that medium. I hope that the articles here helps you to start planning your next Nonprofit campaign with an eye towards telling stories in a more effective way. As always, I would love to hear from you if you found this information helpful, or if you have some hints or mistakes that weren’t covered here. You can contact me through the comments or through any of my social media accounts in the sidebar.

Your Nonprofit work is important. Keep fighting the good fight. ~~DJB.

**For more examples of video storytelling, go to http://www.socialbrite.org/2011/04/21/8-great-examples-of-nonprofit-storytelling/.

Starting a nonprofit in Ontario: First steps

I consider myself something of a rarity (novelty?) in the School of Business at St. Lawrence College in that my motivation has always been more geared towards marketing in the nonprofit and public sectors vs. the private sector. This is largely due to my personal politics, but I have also come to believe that the nonprofit sector desperately needs an influx of marketing expertise and support, and I want to do my part to help fill the gaps – especially for my local community.

There are so many organizations in Kingston, ON that are working hard to serve the people of this community, but we are at risk of losing those services if we don’t help them to strategically plan for their activities, growth, and survival. The lack of expertise is largely due to funding constraints and small budgets for nonprofits, which means that career opportunities are minimal. Many nonprofits are staffed and managed by volunteers – as much by necessity as by design – and the skill sets of those volunteers (no matter how willing) does not often include strategic planning and marketing communications on a professional level.

Thankfully, there are some resources out there for organizations if you know where to look. More than that, I believe that marketing resources for nonprofits are increasingly available online due to the need mentioned above – fueled by increased access via digital and social media. These supports can range from basic videos like the one below, to web hubs for the sector.

I was recently approached by a community activist from Napanee who wanted to start a nonprofit that provided free bicycles to those in need in her region, and she really had no idea how and where to start. During our consultation, it was obvious that she is clearly an intelligent and hard-working volunteer with leadership abilities. She simply needs a helping hand from someone with experience, and some tools to help her navigate the process.

Even as someone with 8 years with Kingston nonprofits, it took a bit of thoughtful searching to figure out the most A/necessary B/practical and C/accessible resources to help her start the process. In the end, I gave her the following four links:

Image credit: sectorsource.ca
Image credit: sectorsource.ca

Sector Source connects charities and nonprofits with resources that help develop organizations and support the work you do for your communities.

Source credit: www.charityvillage.com
Image credit: http://www.charityvillage.com

Charity Village communicates employment opportunities and resources for the Canadian nonprofit and charity sector.

Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) – News, policy and resources for the nonprofit sector in Ontario

Ontario’s Not-for-profit Act – The legislative framework for nonprofits in the province of Ontario

This is just a starting point for a new organization, and I recognize that the information on these sites is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the tools and resources needed by nonprofit volunteers, boards, and community leaders. I would love to hear from other marketers and those with nonprofit experience if you have better examples or other easily available resources. Please feel free to contact me through the comments, or through any of the connections in the sidebar navigation.

~~DJB.

Daniel Beals – NDP Federal Candidate Statement on International Women’s Day

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Daniel Beals: Federal NDP Candidate
Statement for International Women’s Day

March 8, 2015

Friends, Sisters and Brothers, and Community Members,

Today is International Women’s Day and the Kingston & the Islands New Democrats are very proud to recognize the efforts of women in Canada and around the world to improve the status of women in our culture and in the economy.

This day is always doubly meaningful to me, because it is my mother’s birthday and I am thankful for all of the help and support she has given me in my personal growth, as well as my work and political life.

As New Democrats, we are proud to celebrate the progress that has been achieved by women, but we are also mindful of the work that needs to be done for women to reach equal status in the economy, in freedom from rape culture and violence, and in recognition for their abilities as community leaders.

We will not give up that fight until a more fair and just society has been achieved, and we are steadfast in our hope and conviction that we can achieve meaningful change.

On a personal level, I am also mindful of the great privilege that exists for me in my daily life – especially as a political figure. Those elements of privilege sometimes make it difficult to be a truly progressive and helpful ally for women, but I am fortunate of having women in my life who graciously provide understanding, education, and inspiration.

Thank you for all of these things. Keep fighting the good fight.

 

Daniel J. Beals
Federal Candidate – Kingston & the Islands New Democrats

Kingston NDP Federal Nomination Meeting

Daniel Beals: NDP Candidate Nominee
Statement on the Federal New Democrat Nomination in Kingston & the Islands

January 25, 2015

Friends, Sisters and Brothers, and Community Members:

I had the honour of representing the Kingston & the Islands New Democrats in the 2011 federal election and it was an experience that truly changed my life.

As a result of that experience, I understand the tremendous responsibility of a representative to be accessible and accountable to all members of our community. I understand the challenge of trying to reach out and articulate a social democratic message of a fairer and more just economy. Most importantly, I understand the courage and conviction that will be required to move our country in a new direction.

Like so many of you, I have spent the last 10 years watching our Conservative federal government cut public services, put pipelines over communities and our constitution, and tear down the institutions that have made this country liveable for Canadians. The list of affected issues and institutions is long: universal healthcare, job creation, pensions, environmental protection, Status of Women, Employment Insurance, Corrections Services Canada, Statistics Canada, Canada Post, Elections Canada, CBC…It will take years to fully assess the damage that has been done.

But as we look to the future of our country and our communities, it is not enough to simply fix what the Conservatives have broken. In 2015, Canada’s New Democrats will have an opportunity to put forward a vision to strengthen our institutions, protect our environment, renew our economy, and change the relationship with our elected representatives to one based on trust and inclusion in all levels of decision-making.

To make that kind of lasting change in our government, we will need to elect the kind of government we have never seen before in this country. We will need New Democrat principles and ideas, and we will need New Democrat Members of Parliament in Ottawa who are willing to show courage and resolve under intense political pressure.

Over the past 4 years, I have eagerly waited for the chance to step forward and become the next NDP candidate for Kingston & the Islands. It was a responsibility that I was willing to seek through a contested nomination, but at the time of the nomination announcement, no other nominees have stepped forward to contest the candidacy. I am humbled by this vote of confidence and I thank all of you who have reached out to me to express your support.

We have a great challenge ahead of us and a great opportunity. Our work will begin this coming Friday, January 30th at 7pm at the Ongwanada Community Centre and I invite you to join me and help me by sharing your ideas for the campaign and your hope for a new direction for our country.

In 2015 we have another chance to do things differently for this riding and for the country. I want to work with community members to make that change a reality, and I ask all Kingstonians to give me the opportunity to earn their trust and redefine how representation can work better for everyone involved.

In love, hope and optimism.

Daniel J. Beals
dbeals@ndpkingston.org
613-449-8930

Statement on the Decision of Ted Hsu to Not Seek Reelection in Kingston & the Islands

President of the Kingston & the Islands New Democrats and 2011 federal candidate Daniel Beals issues the following statement on the recent announcement that Kingston & the Islands MP Ted Hsu will not be seeking reelection in 2015:

“It was with great surprise that I read the news this morning on Ted Hsu’s blog. As a parent and someone who has chosen a public life, I am greatly moved by his decision to spend more time with his family. As a politician and community representative, I am moved to thank him for the time that he has given to public service.

Public life is a double-edged sword. On the one side, there are very few vocations where you are awarded so much credibility and have so much weight put on your words. It is incredibly validating in that way. On the other side, you are asked in a very real way to give up your privacy, your time and your emotional energy to the community and so many demands outside of your family. This is a sacrifice and a very tough balancing act.

I have known Ted Hsu going back before the 2010 Liberal nomination and he has always been very thoughtful about both sides of public life. I believe that he understood the sacrifice he was making on behalf of the people of Kingston & the Islands in 2011, and I believe that he is making an equally thoughtful and conscientious decision now. 

I thank him for his honesty and his thoughtfulness and for his time in public service. I thank him for serving with dignity and I wish him and his family the very best.”

~~DJB.