Recently, a new client absolutely drilled me with questions about my nonprofit storytelling philosophy.
It was still pretty early in the day, and not being a coffee drinker, I wasn’t quite ready for such an intense conversation.
Thankfully, I rose to the occasion with the help of some nearly flat Mountain Dew.
A Nonprofit Storytelling Convert
This potential client had obviously done some homework on nonprofit storytelling.
When I started talking about heroes, she was very adamant that the protagonist of the story must be the audience — the donor, the grantmaker, the volunteer.
She objected to my hero team-up technique.
I believe that every story nonprofits tell should have co-heroes to be most effective. One hero is an individual representing the organization. The second hero is the audience.
I tend to stumble over terms like protagonist and antagonist, so I used the terms hero and villain to explain how my story characters function within the story.
Here is how I explained my hero team-up technique.
The Lone Hero
First we meet the lone hero in the proper context.
This hero is a representative of the organization. Depending on the story, this person could be the founder, the current executive director, a board member, a volunteer, or a member of the staff.
Simply choose the best person to represent the organization in the story.
Then, we meet the villain. The villain is the issue the organization was formed to resolve. The more malignant the villain appears, the better the story.
The villain in our conversation was food insecurity. The nature of the villain is characterized by its impact on an individual — a client of the organization.
The hero, then, is the founder of a food pantry targeting hunger and seeking to improve the life of one particular client.
Now, our hero is in a pitched battle against the villain. The villain throws up obstacle after obstacle for our hero to overcome. Then natural disasters strike. Then the economy takes a dive. Our hero is reeling. The client’s future hangs in the balance. Great drama.
The Hero Team-Up
The music crescendos and we meet our co-hero. The audience.
This is the person, or group of people, who can help our organization’s hero — in a very specific way — vanquish the villain. This help might be in the form of a donation, awarding a grant, volunteering time, or spreading your organization’s story.
Now we have a proper hero team-up. Only with the combination of resources of both heroes can the day be saved.
By using this hero team-up technique, members of any nonprofit organization can tell stories that resonate with a target audience, initiate engagement, and begin to create lasting partnerships.
Today, Mountain Dew was my co-hero. And that potential client is now my newest client.
Image courtesy of Ammon Beckstrom.