Let’s assume (and hope!) that you’re already convinced that quality storytelling is just what your nonprofit needs. Now what?

Or, maybe you’ve plowed ahead only to discover that storytelling done ad hoc has been a disaster. How can you get organized?

Where do you collect all the materials that can inform your nonprofit’s stories? How do you keep track of the stories you’ve created and the ones you have yet to tell? How do you empower your colleagues to use the stories that show why your work matters? Where can your community go to immerse themselves in stories that help them understand and be inspired by the very human impact of your work?

That’s a lot of questions. Here’s the answer:

Storybanks make for better storytelling

A storybank is a system to capture, store, and share your stories, including the raw materials they’re based on.

In this multimedia modern age, your storybank will probably need to contain content in a variety of formats. Audio, video, photos, documents, interview transcripts, music, and other media are all fair game.

There are two sides to a good storybank: an internal one for staff use and an external one for the public.

Storybanks for staff

There’s nothing sadder than a story that goes unheard. With a storybank, your coworkers can easily find the well-told, compelling story they need. They can draw on these stories when talking to donors, funders, policymakers, or the media, or as part of a grant application or presentation.

Ideally, the storybank will allow them to look up stories to meet a need, searching by keywords, date created, who’s featured, demographics, related program, location, or other characteristic. Anyone on your staff can pop into the storybank to log their story ideas and upload source materials. Your on-staff storytellers, copywriters, development folks, and social media team can also dive into the archive of source materials held in the storybank to find inspiration for even more stories.

Storybanks for the public

You’ve probably run across many storybanks out in the wild. Perhaps the most well-known is StoryCorps, a nonprofit on a mission to give everyone the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their story. Points of Light (one of my clients) prominently shares written and video stories about volunteer heroes in order to inspire others to create change in their community.

With a public-facing storybank, there’s a place, or set of places, where your community can discover stories about the real people who support your organization and who are supported by it. It might be an amalgamation of your blog, YouTube channel, social media, and other places you use to share your stories with the world.

Wherever your stories live, you might also provide people an easy way to tell their story so it can one day become part of your nonprofit’s storybank.

Storybank all the things

There’s no one right way to storybank. And, you certainly don’t want to spend so much time managing your storybank that you run out of time to tell stories.

To start shaping your organization’s storybank, you’ll want to consider:

  • What could a storybank make possible at your organization?
  • How will your organization collect stories? What kind of source materials will you collect? Who will do the collecting (staff, board, volunteers, others)?
  • Where will you share your stories? In what formats will you share your stories (audio, video, written, other)?
  • What guidelines can make it easier for your colleagues to enthusiastically join your organization’s story collection, creation, and sharing efforts?
  • If your nonprofit already has a storybank, what have you learned that could help others?

Join a conversation about storybanks during January’s #NPMC chat

Share your storybank questions and ideas by joining the #NPMC Twitter chat on Thursday, January 28 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Lauren Girardin

Lauren Girardin

Marketing and Communications Strategist at Lauren Girardin Consulting
Lauren Girardin uses her creative chutzpah to help nonprofits engage their communities and tell their stories. She shows organizations how to experiment bravely in their social media, blogging, content marketing, web content, brand messaging, and other digital and traditional communications. She counts Caravan Studios, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Essential Access Health (formerly California Family Health Council), GovLoop, NEOGOV, Points of Light, Rebuilding Together, TechSoup, TeenSource, and YTH among her clients. Reach her at lg@laurengirardin.com.
Lauren Girardin