We want to share stories in our nonprofit marketing and communication? But how do we find them? Here are my 4 tips for sharing volunteer stories in nonprofit social media.
Storytelling has become a bit of a buzzword in marketing. We all have heard the need to move away from traditional marketing strategies and move towards storytelling and content marketing. The church is a place where this is especially true. Many of us want to incorporate storytelling into church communication. But how do we share them well? Where do we even find them?
There are tons of ways to share stories, but volunteer stories are some of the easiest to begin with.
4 Tips for Sharing Volunteer Stories
1. Finding Stories
Many people are intimidated by the task of telling stories because it feels like you have to write a novel. But you don’t. You do not have to share an entire narrative to share a story. You simply need to share the heart of a person that engages with people and changes the way they think or inspires their next step of action.
Storytelling is a muscle, and it needs to be regularly exercised. Schedule a regular time that you are sharing stories on your platforms. Form the habit of consistently asking staff members if they’ve had any “star moments” that might be a good story. Become a journalist in your organization.
Keep your eyes out for those “Jesus Moments” or other great nuggets of gold, and watch for an upcoming blog post on some of my favorite ways to share stories.
It takes time, but you have to create a culture of storytelling. As you share stories, others will begin to slowly come out of the woodwork. As people see stories shared, they will be more comfortable coming forward to share their own. Be patient, and continue digging.
2. Interviewing Volunteers
When you do get the chance to sit down and interview them, make sure you are prepared to absorb as much information as you can. If you listen well, you will often get triple the content you hoped for. There are a few basic principles I use when collecting stories.
- Get your head outside your goal. You now have two jobs: to get the story and to connect with the human. They are not a mine, they are a person who probably feels nervous.
- Be prepared with a list of questions that are centered around your “topic”
- Have additional questions that prod around the edges of that topic
- Take the time to ask questions about an “off topic” comment that catches your attention – these are usually the best stories that come out
- Record the interview so you can listen later in case you miss something
- Write down EVERYTHING. Details make the story. Record as many of them as you can
- Affirm the volunteer
Never allow an opportunity to appreciate anyone you speak with pass you by. Especially when talking with a community member or volunteer, take the time to affirm the time they have given you and their sacrificial service that you are telling about.
3. Writing Your Story
Depending on how you are using a story, you may need to get comfortable with the fact that you’re going to take a 30 minute phone conversation and condense it into 3-5 sentences. We have some forms of longer stories, but volunteer highlights on social media are never longer than 2 short paragraphs.
Figure out what length makes sense for your audience and medium. Then find all the details and start pairing down to the important stuff. You don’t have time to include all those great details.
On social media, you have time to make one good point, choose it wisely.
If something doesn’t contribute to that point, cut it. It’s okay.
4. Build a Library of Stories
So you’ve cut most of your content for your story. But don’t let it go to waste. Odds are, in that 30 minute interview, there were probably a couple of themes talked about. Train yourself to become sensitive to those themes, they’re going to help you build a library of stories.
For example, I recently interviewed a man who had been serving in kids ministry. I wanted to highlight a kids volunteer, so the story was perfect. However, in our conversation, he also mentioned the impact his mentor had on him and told a heartwarming story of a boy accepting Jesus at VBS.
I know my job, and I know that in 8 months, we’re going to be plugging VBS. A lightbulb goes off in my head. I’m going to repurpose this conversation for that story, long in the future.
Create a separate note with every detail the interviewee mentions along a certain theme. Save it with the right tags so you can find it again. When you inevitably need a story along that topic, you will have raw content ready to be edited and used.
You can stop desperately trying to track down a story for that last minute post.
There are so many ways to incorporate storytelling in your communications plan, and volunteers are the simplest way to begin.
How have you been incorporating storytelling in your communication?