For successful nonprofits, having a strong mission is only the beginning. Storytelling is one critical component.
“The starting piece, what underpins any effective communication, is knowing that your organization has a solid mission,” said Gregory Bradbard, president of the nonprofit Hope through Housing Foundation and senior vice president of strategic partnerships for National Community Renaissance (National CORE).
“Beyond that, everyone in your organization needs to know what that mission is, what specific problem they are trying to address, and why that is important.”
Hope through Housing provides supportive services to residents of CORE’s affordable, senior and market-rate properties, including financial literacy training, senior wellness, and preschool and after-school programs.
Show ‘the why’
“Nonprofits are really good at telling what they do and how they do it, but sharing why their mission is critical to recipients is the important part,” he said.
At the end of the day, what compels people to get involved, donate or volunteer, is the why, Bradbard said.
“For example, one senior, her Social Security was about $600 a month, her rent $445. The rest was for her living expenses, food, transportation and medical. One of the things we do is provide food pantries to our residents so that they have enough food to eat.”
The nonprofit could talk about how it provides housing and services like a food pantry. But it would be difficult to appreciate it without the why it is so important and how that service helps recipients.
It’s also important for nonprofits to know their audience when telling their story: “With one group, we may focus on how we can help people become selfsufficient. With another, we may discuss the numbers of people who are unhoused and the need for more housing to get more people off the streets.”
And always be looking for champions, Bradbard said: “Who in the community believes in what you do. That might be a city leader, or might even be a former client. Invite them in as ambassadors for your organization and encourage them to spread your story.”