It’s one of the most natural ways to communicate.
The power of storytelling is unmatched. And there are several proven reasons for that.
Storytelling is in Our Nature
The oral tradition of storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful teaching and learning methods we have.
It is the way human beings have communicated information since before written language.
Tens of thousands of years of tales being told by firelight.
Thousands of years of written stories.
Hundreds of years of stories performed in the theater.
A hundred years of stories on the silver screen.
Decades of stories broadcast over the airwaves.
Through generation after generation, our brains have evolved to look for the familiar patterns of stories.
Storytelling Transfers Knowledge
The storyteller is still the best teacher.
Stories transfer unquantifiable elements of knowledge, the most important element being experience.
When we hear stories we absorb second-hand information and it becomes first-hand perception.
We learn from each other through stories.
Stories Help us Remember
Because our brains are structured around stories, it’s easier for us to remember facts if they are wrapped in a story.
In Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (Rethinking Theory), Roger Schank concluded that human memory is story-based. He also advocates for a story-centered curriculum.
And there have been many research studies that show that stories are fundamental to how we learn, organize, and recall what we know.
Stories Unite Meaning and Emotion
Life situations, in the moment, are typically either intellectual or emotional.
As time passes, we may feel this way or that about an intellectual situation. And we may intellectualize an emotional situation.
But stories blend the intellectual with the emotional, in the moment.
Stories give an emotional charge to ideas. And when that idea is charged with emotion, it becomes powerful, profound, and memorable.
Robert McKee put it perfectly in his screenwriting book Story when he wrote:
. . . a story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience.
When we hear stories, we are moved.
Sometimes moved to tears. Other times moved into action.
Nonprofit Storytelling Done Right Motivates Greater Giving
People tend to give more to one clearly identifiable victim than to a large group of similarly suffering people.
People also respond greater to victims of loss than to victims of chronic conditions.
See the Sympathy and Giving section on my Nonprofit Storytelling Resources page for links to these studies.
Stories Are Your Best Tool
Again, I can’t say it better than Robert McKee:
A story becomes a kind of living philosophy that the audience members grasp as a whole, in a flash, without conscious thought — a perception married to their life experiences.
So it is through storytelling that you can best communicate your organization’s mission, successes, and future.
It is through storytelling that you can activate donors, win grants, rally supporters, motivate staff and volunteers, and ensure your sustainability.
P.S. If what you learned in this article could benefit someone you know, please share it with your network.