3 Examples of Great Nonprofit Storytelling

If we asked you right now what your favorite movie is—don’t pause—what comes to mind?

Did you feel that rush of excitement; the one that’s got you ready to defend your choice to the death?! That passion and joy is what happens when a great story sticks with you. It’s true for TV series, books, and conversations—and it’s true for the 3 nonprofits we’ve chosen to feature below.

If you’ve read our post on why storytelling is such a powerful tool for fundraisers, then you’re ready for some real-life storytelling in action. These 3 highly successful non-profits have put the theory into practice and produced awesome, memorable results. We hope they inspire you too.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation

The first on our list is a non-profit group that’s been around for almost three decades. It’s one you’ve probably heard of before. The Make-a-Wish Foundation was founded in 1980 to grant the wishes of children fighting life-threatening illnesses. The idea for the organization was born when a police officer decided to make the dream of a friend’s terminally ill child to be a police officer come true. The officer and his co-workers went all out to create a memorable experience for the boy, investing themselves so deeply that once it was all over they decided to make more wishes come true. Make-a-Wish still uses this origin story as a way to educate people about what they do and why they do it. Now a widespread organization with 62 chapters in the US and working in 45 countries around the world, Make-a-Wish, on average, grants a new wish every 34 minutes. Their success is due in large part to the storytelling aspect at the heart of their organization. You can check out their youtube channel to watch the wishes of hundreds come true. Here is a heart-warming example of how Make-a-Wish uses storytelling to inspire and further their cause: I

Humans of New York

The next organization on our list, Humans of New York, also had an organic beginning. Here’s how it all started in the words of founder, Brandon Stanton:

“Humans of New York began as a photography project in 2010. The initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants...Somewhere along the way, I began to interview my subjects in addition to photographing them. And alongside their portraits, I'd include quotes and short stories from their lives.”

Stanton’s project morphed into a successful blog and then spread across various social media channels, where he now attracts more than twenty million followers. In the past few years he’s even created special series to tell the stories of people in twenty other countries. Here are two examples of a typical HONY post from their Facebook page:

unnamed-2.png
unnamed.png


Another reason HONY’s model is so successful is because of its large, interactive community. The power of the individual stories HONY shares inspires all kinds of conversations in the comments thread daily. Referred to as the “HONY community,” this network of everyday people from all over the world has powered a great number of fundraisers, all of which support the people and causes featured in HONY’s stories.

She’s the First

She’s the First is an organization devoted to supporting the education of girls who will be the first in their families to graduate high school. Unlike some organizations, where you send your money out and never hear from them again, She’s the First shows you where your money is going and they use storytelling to do it. In their own words:

“When you donate to She’s the First, you can be matched with the group of STF Scholars who benefit from your funds. You know exactly where in the world your dollars are headed—and you’ll hear directly from girls on how they’re taking action in their community.”

They make a point that whoever supports She’s the First will hear directly from the girl, the recipient of their support. By telling her own story, each girl shares the impact of that contribution, giving the donor reassurance that they made a meaningful contribution. To see an example of how She’s the First uses storytelling to engage support, here’s a video of one of their scholars, Fatou, an aspiring photographer:

These are just 3 examples of non-profits who use storytelling to power their cause and attract support. We hope you’re now convinced of the power of storytelling and inspired to tell your organization’s story with greater impact!