Finding Stories that move people

What could you do if you captured the hearts of supporters, funders and your community?  You could change the world! That’s why telling the right stories is so important, and there’s potential everywhere.  

How can you find the best stories to show your impact?

A trick is to look at the types of stories that have always captivated people. These three stand out for their fit with showing impact.

Character-driven stories are fascinating and help build empathy. Who pops into mind when you think about the people who you help?

Stories with a central conflict are enduring and work well for organisations addressing a problem or need in the community. They’re great at building tension in a narrative, and that’s what captures attention.

And lastly, stories about a hero’s journey have always inspired people. Do you have a donor or staff member who fits this bill? We bet you do!

Structure your story for maximum impact

The ‘beginning–middle–end’ structure of stories is pounded into all Kiwi school kids. As adults, we can see this as a narrative arc.

To hold your reader’s attention, keep building the tension throughout your story and then wrap up with some kind of resolution.

Your aim is to hook your reader and emotionally transport them. This response is tied to oxytocin release. You should read the story about that research! Oxytocin helps unlock people’s empathy, compassion, and their likelihood to give. Keep your ‘call to action’ until after the final resolution – you want to save it until the full power of your story is flooding your reader with emotion.

Authenticity and detail help make stories compelling

You only need to watch a child relate their day’s activities to see that humans have a natural inclination to tell stories. But good technique makes your stories more interesting.

One tip is to be specific, not general when you’re telling a story. Search out details that make your reader feel as though they’re there in the moment. For instance, it’s much better to talk about a ‘scratchy woollen blanket’ than ‘bedding’.

Authenticity is vital in good storytelling. It might be tempting to make up ‘typical scenarios,’ but your integrity is just too important to risk. We know it can be tricky when privacy limits what you can say.  Sometimes, it’s better to forgo a story rather than compromise someone or your organisation.

Your community is rich with potential stories. In fact, setting out to discover them is like going on your own ‘hero’s journey’.  Hunt down stories that show your organisation’s impact and how others can help. Tell your stories well and you’ll be successful…you’ll move people’s hearts, minds, money and more.