nonprofit stories

By Scot Kersgaard, JVA

Nonprofits have stories to tell. How do you make YOUR nonprofit stories stand out?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it still make a sound?

Don’t answer that. It’s a trick question.

If your nonprofit has great stories to tell, but no one hears them, are they still great stories?

Untold stories are worth exactly as much as unfiled grant applications and uncashed checks. Zero, zip, nada.

Media need you, too

Do you have great nonprofit stories? Are you at a loss for how to tell them, or who to tell them to?

Does the idea of picking up the phone and calling a reporter make you squeamish?

Here is another question to ponder. What is the last thing a reporter (or producer) does before going to bed at night, or possibly the first thing they do when they get up in the morning? They look for their next story, article, or broadcast idea. They go through their emails, they search the internet, they tune in to the Daily Show or Morning Joe.

They need your nonprofit stories as much as you need them and their audience. So, how do you get your stories in front of the people who need them?

There is no simple one-size-fits-all formula, but Joining Vision and Action has plenty of tips on how to get your organization noticed.

First, you need a good story.

Finding your hook

What are your nonprofit stories? To some extent, the things that make your organization worth funding are the same things that make it worth media attention. Funders and reporters need different things, though. Especially when it comes to good news, the media need something surprising. In the news business, they call it a hook.

A hook is something that catches readers and viewers so that the reporter can then reel them in and keep them reading or watching with a good story.

Here’s a story for you: Local man starts chess clubs in low-income schools. It’s a nice, feel-good story, but we don’t have a hook yet, so most editors will yawn. Here’s the hook: Students who had struggled with classwork and had never considered themselves smart start doing better in school after taking up chess because everyone knows chess is a game for smart people, so they must be smarter than they had thought.

You already know your story. It’s time to start looking for your hook, that little twist that turns your story into news. What is it about what you do that makes people smile, laugh or cry? What is it that causes people to make an emotional investment in what you do?

Feeding a thousand people a month is not a news story. If one of those people has a eureka moment while eating a free meal and goes on to get a job and a house and then comes back as a volunteer, that could be a story. If one of your volunteers learns enough about running a commercial kitchen from her work with your group that she goes on to open a restaurant that employs people she once served free meals to, that could be a story.

More on media relations

If you sometimes have trouble getting the word out about your organization and KNOW more money would be available if more people knew your incredible nonprofit stories, this series will help you become an excellent story teller the press will love.