The Benefits of Humor and Play in Nonprofit Work

As nonprofit storytellers and writers, we all know the power of a good story. A compelling narrative can change hearts, minds, and even the world. But have you ever felt like you’re just pushing information at your audience instead of truly engaging them? Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.

The Pull vs. Push Approach in Storytelling

Before we dive into specifics, let’s first discuss the difference between pulling listeners in and pushing a narrative at them.

Pushing the narrative means simply providing information, data, and facts without considering your audience’s engagement or emotional response. This can lead to listeners feeling overwhelmed or disconnected from your message.

On the other hand, pulling listeners in means capturing their attention and evoking an emotional response by tapping into their own experiences, feelings, and values. This creates a deeper connection and fosters a sense of empathy and understanding, which can inspire action in support of your cause.

Let’s take a look at some examples and sources that demonstrate the power of pulling listeners in.

Example 1: World Wildlife Fund and The Story of Borneo’s Pygmy Elephants

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is a global conservation organization that has long understood the importance of storytelling to inspire people to protect the planet’s wildlife and natural resources. One such example is their work on Borneo’s pygmy elephants, an endangered species with a declining population due to habitat loss and human conflict.

Instead of solely relying on data about their shrinking numbers, WWF shares the story of a particular group of pygmy elephants that were tracked by a team of researchers. They followed the elephants’ journey through the forests of Borneo, observing their behavior and the challenges they faced along the way.

By focusing on the individual experiences of these elephants, WWF pulls listeners in and allows them to connect with the animals on a more personal level. They “humanize” the elephants by providing details of their personalities, relationships, and daily struggles. This approach helps create empathy and a sense of urgency for listeners, who are more likely to support the cause and take action to protect these incredible animals.

Example 2: StoryCorps and the Power of Personal Stories

StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing humanity’s stories. Through their extensive archive of recorded conversations, StoryCorps demonstrates that even the most ordinary lives contain extraordinary stories.

One touching example is the conversation between Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel, a mother and her son’s murderer who have come together to heal through forgiveness. This powerful story pulls listeners in by exploring the complex emotions of loss, guilt, and redemption. By focusing on the personal experiences of Mary and Oshea, listeners can better understand the transformative power of forgiveness.

Example 3: Invisible People and Changing Perceptions of Homelessness

Invisible People is a nonprofit that aims to change the way we think about homelessness by sharing the stories of individuals experiencing it. Founder Mark Horvath interviews people living on the streets, allowing them to share their stories in their own words.

One impactful story is that of Monica, a woman who lost both of her legs due to cold weather as she was living on the street. By sharing her journey, Invisible People pulls listeners in and encourages them to reconsider their preconceptions about homelessness. The organization doesn’t push statistics, but rather invites the audience to see Monica as a human being with dreams, hopes, and fears – just like the rest of us.

As you can see, it’s so important to focus on personal experiences, evoke emotional responses, and connect with your audience’s values. By doing so, you’ll create a deeper connection, inspiring them to take action in support of your cause.

Here are a few tips to help you pull listeners in as you tell your nonprofit’s story:

Find the human element: Focus on the individuals affected by your cause, rather than just presenting statistics and facts. Share their personal stories and experiences, allowing your audience to relate to them on an emotional level.

Be authentic: Be honest and genuine in your storytelling. Authenticity will resonate with your audience and help build trust in your organization and its mission.

Evoke emotion: Tap into your audience’s feelings by using vivid language, imagery, and anecdotes. By evoking emotions such as empathy, compassion, or even anger, you can inspire your listeners to take action.

Show, don’t tell: Use descriptive language to paint a picture in your listeners’ minds. Instead of simply telling them about your cause, show them what it looks like, feels like, and means to those affected.

Be relatable: Connect your story to the experiences, values, and emotions of your audience. By making your message relatable, you can help your listeners see themselves in your story and understand the impact of your cause on a personal level.

With compelling, authentic stories that connect deeply with your audience, your nonprofit’s message will be more likely to resonate and inspire action. So, go ahead and tell your stories – your community is waiting to listen.

Mission Forward

Mission Forward is a weekly LinkedIn Newsletter written by Paul Durban with tools, tips and tricks to help nonprofits reach their goals. Subscribe to the newsletter on LinkedIn.