Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In storytelling, it is the feeling that we most aim to capture. So often, though, staff and board members get caught up in having the latest numbers, facts, and figures memorized, assuming this is the best way to share the impact of their organizations.

The good news is that this misconception is a great opportunity to educate and simplify (and trust me, you will be their hero if you can simplify the task at hand!). Let board members and staff know there is a time and place to share data, but it’s not the best way to make a first impression or a lasting one.  

The solution to the “stickiness” factor—things that people remember—is as simple as telling a well-crafted story.

A good story captures a feeling. And the feeling inspires action, sustaining long after the story finishes.

Think carefully about the way you want people to feel after hearing your story, and what details to share to get them there. Sensory details (taste, touch, smell, sound) are always a bonus to bring your story to life.

Some other steps when crafting your story:

  • Pick one character (this could be a donor, someone your nonprofit has served, a volunteer, etc.).
  • Describe a bit about that character—their background, beliefs, hardships, what this person wants more than anything and the motivation or reason they want it.
  • Then work through the obstacles between your chosen character and their end goal. What risk do they face pursuing that goal? What is the likelihood and consequences if they fail? Surely, along the way they will face struggles (internal or external) to reach the goal. Pick one or two to share.
  • End with the resolution. What happened? Provide some closure.

Using this simple formula, you will take your audience through a journey with you.

People will only remember how your organization makes them feel. What feeling do you want associated with your work?

Hat tip to your success!

P.S. Do you want to get updates on our most recent blogs and other free resources we offer? Sign up here for our bi-monthly e-newsletter, The SWGazette.