In the charity world, stories are the essence of our work. After all, it is the people whose lives have intersected with ours that define our work, and through those relationships we strive to positively impact communities everywhere. ‘Sir Josephson’ himself points out that stories of change and a good impact story along with outputs are what legitimizes are activities as a charity. So it is essential that we are able to communicate these stories to our donors and supporters in a way that enables them to see, feel, and experience the work we do in an engaging manner that makes them want to keep reading—and maybe even support financially!
In my last article, I wrote about the posture in which we should carry ourselves as storytellers—storytellers that uphold the dignity of those affected by our work, and who communicate truthfully and respectfully to donors and supporters. But it is also crucial to know elements of a good impact story if we want to write hope-filled, engaging stories of our work that will draw people deeper into our story.
So what are elements of good impact stories that we should take into consideration? Drawing upon personal experience and the expertise of Trina Wallace, third-sector freelance copywriter and editor, here are four elements to consider when writing stories of impact for donors and supporters:
1. Make It Relatable
People connect well to other people’s stories, especially stories that incorporate relatable themes. It enables them to taste and see the work we do and to understand our work on a deeper level by gaining a glimpse into the lives of those we impact in a way that facts and figures do not allow.
Our stories should bring people along for the ride by building upon common human experiences. This is why personal accounts are so effective, because they evoke empathy from readers. However, we should remain cognizant of how we write so that we do elicit empathy rather than falling into the trap of evoking pity.
2. Make It Understandable
Resist the urge to use organizational or sector-specific jargon, acronyms, and figures as they get lost among the reader and usually lead to disengagement. Ensuring that the story is readable, relatable, and understandable to the general public will guarantee that readers will remain engaged in the future.
3. Define The Problem/Solution Relationship
When writing stories to draw readers into our work, we must be careful to include not just the problem or the solution, but demonstrate the relationship between the two. What is the problem that our work is addressing? Who are the people affected by the problem and what are their stories? And what are we doing to solve the problem? Just as any written piece has a beginning, middle, and end, so should our impact stories. Drawing the reader into the problem is only the beginning, but helping them empathize through personal accounts and motivating them to take part in the solution should be our goal. Defining the problem/solution relationship can help transform empathy evoked from the stated problem into action towards the solution.
4. Be Consistent
This is a crucial element to developing impact stories, since without consistent stories and personal accounts, readers may lose interest over time. Keep the reader interested and engaged through consistent news, project updates, and impact stories delivered from a variety of angles to keep them along for the journey.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://recharity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/kate-kardol.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kate Kardol is an independent writer, copyeditor, and photographer with a focus on charity communications, currently living in Switzerland where she is working on her M.A. in International Development. Kate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.[/author_info] [/author]