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Play and Experiment: Crafting an Impactful Story

We all know that one person who is an excellent storyteller. When they start telling a story, everyone leans in, fixed on the words, breathing in every pause, and waiting for the next action to happen. They have everyone enthralled, absorbed, and totally focused.

There’s also the author who holds you spell-bound from the moment you crack the spine of your new book. You forget about all that is going on around you – your coffee growing cold, your tummy rumbling, everything fading into the background.

This is what we are working towards – whether verbally, visually, or in print.

For most of us, storytelling doesn’t come naturally. It’s a process that requires hard work, experimentation, and practice.

Every story needs structure: a beginning, a middle, and an end. It needs an identified audience (who?), a reason for sharing the story (why?), and a key point that needs to be communicated (what?).

If we follow this formula and we utilize a storyboard approach, we can layout our story and begin to frame what is most important to say succinctly. This is particularly helpful if you are trying to keep your story short (< 1 minute) in a video or a simple line or two that supports a visual.

Let’s take a quick look at the questions we can ask ourselves:

· Who is reading our story?

· Why is the story important to share?

· What impact are we trying to communicate?

Once we know this, our next step is to identify key points that need to be highlighted in the opening, the middle, and the end of the story.


  • How can we best introduce the story?

  • What “gem” will capture the attention of the reader?


  • What is the obstacle that needs to be overcome?

  • Who / what is the protagonist?


  • How has our organization helped solve the problem?

  • What change / benefit has been realized by the main character as a result of their work with us?

Keeping your story simple is essential when it comes to storytelling for non-profits. After all, you either have a limited number of words with which to work, or you have the attention span of a reader who is very busy.

As a result, you need to craft your message well. It needs to be tight, impactful, and memorable. Don’t be afraid to test your stories out. Present the same story in multiple ways and measure the results (A/B Testing): Which is most impactful? Which opened the most conversations? Which are people sharing in relation to your organization?

Once you understand who is responding to what, play with that. See what other stories can be used in this format, with similar messages and different characters/outcomes. Find the right way to communicate your message on each of the media channels you use (presentations, video, social media, etc.).

Have fun testing what works where. Remember: this is an experiment, so the more you play, the more you learn. Have fun!

Please share with us what messages have had the most impact and why you think this is the case. I can't wait to hear.

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