From the team at GlobalGiving.
As the first and largest online crowdfunding community, GlobalGiving spends a lot time thinking about how to tell effective stories. To connect donors, nonprofits and companies in nearly every country in the world with tools and resources to be more effective, GlobalGiving needs to tell stories that transcend geographic boundaries and unleash the potential of anyone, anywhere to create positive change.
So, what makes an effective story? We know it’s a complex question, but we’re happy to see the development sector focus on answers.
We believe effective and ethical storytelling helps nonprofits meet their mission. Yes! Stories can actually enhance the freedom, health, or security of the people that nonprofits intend to help. They can also deepen the public’s understanding and perception of the social sector and drive more financial support for solutions to the world’s problems. We like to think of this as the nonprofit communicator’s Triple Bottom Line.
At GlobalGiving, we don’t expect to find a silver bullet to being better storytellers, but we know asking tough questions will bring us closer to our goal. Today, critical questioning is hard-wired into our storytelling process. In advance of #GivingTuesday, we want to share three questions we try to ask ourselves every time we tell a story:
- Does our story illustrate the dignity and agency of the people we serve? Every person plays a role in his or her own development, and we shouldn’t gloss over it. Consider how aid agencies were recently rated by refugees and people affected by crisis. They got a score of 3.5/10 in “treating people with dignity and respect.” We can do better; in fact, it’s imperative that we do for the people we serve. Learn more about dignity and agency in storytelling from The Development Element, one of our favorite tools.
- Is our story “People First”? People-First language puts a person before a disability or challenge. Rather than describing a group of “disabled children,” for example, describe them as “children with disabilities,” or better yet, “children who use wheelchairs,” if that is accurate. This way of thinking about language recognizes its power to shape our planet—the nonprofit ecosystem. “Our words and the meanings we attach to them create attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and decisions, and affect people’s daily lives,” explains The Arc. A large-scale research endeavor, The Narrative Project, found that the public has a poor perception of global development and searched for storytelling themes that would generate more support. We were among 10 organizations that road tested the project’s findings last summer. While our tests with the themes didn’t inspire more donations, the project sparked something that might be more important: mainstream introspection about the role of storytelling in the nonprofit sector.
- Are we empowering people tell their own stories whenever possible? When we step back and let others to tell their own stories, amazing things happen. We believe amplifying seldom-heard voices is not only ethical, it brings us closer to all three of our goals “profit” in the Triple Bottom equation. We looked at 50,000 project reports sent to donors on our platform over the past 8 years, and we discovered that reports written with a singular pronoun (I, he, she) drove the most donations, and the results were even slightly higher if the report was written from a first-person (I, me) perspective. Letting your constituents speak for themselves can be powerful!
We’re committed to asking tough questions this #GivingTuesday, and every day. We hope you have room to ask them, too. You can follow our future storytelling experiments on our Tools + Training Blog.