WRITING YOUR IMPACT STORIES SO THEY HAVE… IMPACT!
5 TIPS TO CREATING A CONNECTION
Your cause, foundation, or charity exists to make a difference in the world, and the effect you have on the lives of the people you help is a source of inspiration. Tapping into it, and telling their stories in a way that captivates, can be a vital element in your communications strategy because it tells current and potential supporters that the work you do matters.
How you choose to tell your stories is completely up to you. Whether it is through social media links to your website for example, or through more traditional methods like print and direct mail, the common thread is the stories themselves and how effective they are in engaging your audience.
Here are five tips to strengthen your impact stories:
1. BE REAL
Authenticity is the key to telling great stories about the people you help. It’s ok to use stats and numbers sparingly or as visual accents (like a sidebar graphic), but to get your audience to the heart of the matter, one or two well-told stories will resonate more than a large statistic no matter how impressive it may seem.
Use real images of the people you are showcasing when permission is given. Confidentiality must always be protected, but if the person is willing to use their real name and photograph, the story stands a better chance of creating a positive impact.
Keep the tone of the communication aligned with your brand standards, while endeavouring to use approachable, even conversational language. Remember, this is not a fact sheet or a technical document. It is a story about real people facing real challenges, and the great work you are doing to make things better.
2. BE CONCISE
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” has been attributed to many people, and although by several accounts Mark Twain was likely not the one who penned it, I’m going with him anyway, because he is one of my favourite humourists. The point is, write only what you need to say. “Keep it simple” is a rule in all creative exercises, by the way, so your impact story is no exception. If your story is tight and engaging while saying everything you need to say, you’ll stand a much better chance of your audience staying with you until the end.
It sounds tricky, and it is. It takes work. The best writing is re-writing. Get your thoughts down. Set it aside. Come back to it, and use it as a framework. Is there a better word? A better sentence structure? Play with the rhythm of the words and how they interact to help pace your story.
And did I mention “keep it simple?” Don’t say too much and all that?
I’ve said enough about this. Let’s move on.
3. PROVIDE CONTEXT
Keep it short, yes, but don’t assume your audience knows what you know. You’re close to these stories, the people in them, and your cause. By adding enough background, you’re providing the canvas upon which you will build your story. So strike the proper balance between saying only what you have to say, and saying enough.
4. TAP INTO THE EMOTION
This may seem obvious, but again, sometimes we can get caught up in the larger statistics and miss the emotional qualities that can be conveyed with one individual’s experience. Another strategy to enhance writing in general is to use all the senses. So for example, if you are featuring the plight of a homeless person, try to capture the true feeling of cold, and juxtapose it with words that feel warm, when you’re describing the help your organization provides.
5. BE CLEAR ON YOUR GOALS
Is the communication your are creating designed as a thank you to donors for their generosity? If so, be careful that you do just that, and not, for example, ask them for more. That’s fundraising disguised as a thank you. If your goal is fundraising, it’s fine to say thank you while asking for a donation. Just make sure you are clear at the outset of the project what the desired outcome is, as this will inform what your call to action is.
I hope these tips can help you create, refine, and share the engaging stories that reflect your organization. By telling your story in an impactful way you will increase your chances of successfully making the changes you’re striving for.