A vibrant storytelling culture means the difference between whether your organization has a living, breathing portfolio of different stories, from different perspectives, that share its impact—or just a single, somewhat stagnant story.
It’s the difference between having one person in the organization dedicated to storytelling (whether that’s the CEO, development director, or head of communications) and everyone in the organization having compelling stories at their fingertips.
And for many organizations, it’s the difference between investing in telling the organization’s story in a more compelling way—or not investing.
Much of the conversation about nonprofit storytelling today focuses on why organizations should tell stories.
It’s safe to say that most organizations understand the need for stories as a tool for engaging potential donors, funders, and supporters. In fact, in a survey of Washington, DC-based nonprofits we conducted last year, 96 percent of respondents said that storytelling is an important part of their communications.
Far fewer conversations are dedicated to the “how”—specifically, how nonprofits (especially smaller ones) can develop a sustainable system for collecting and sharing stories.
So what, exactly, do we mean by a “storytelling culture,” and how do nonprofits go about building one? While producing applied storytelling research, tools, and trainings during our yearlong Stories Worth Telling project at Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication, we looked at hundreds of nonprofit stories and interviewed more than a dozen organizations with compelling evidence of having this elusive culture nailed down. We discovered two main components: a mindset and appreciation for stories, and capacity.