Art and Science of Nonprofit Storytelling

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Fundraising,Storytelling

Guest post by: Erica Waasdorp

Nonprofit storytelling is an art and a science.  It’s a journey and a challenge to create the story that evokes emotion and helps raise money . . .

I’m sitting on the edge of my seat. What I’m about to hear is intriguing and shocking at the same time, but I just can’t stop listening… and it’s already engrained in my brain. I just cannot forget the story I heard…”

Bill Mosher, creator of The Visionaries, is a true storyteller.  He keeps audiences on the edge of their seat and he’s been doing it for many years on television, in his book and on the web.

And Bill is not afraid to share his experiences and the process of how to tell a really great story.  For example: Recently, almost 80 people attended a workshop on Cape Cod, organized by Professionals in Development, in collaboration with the Planned Giving Council of Cape Cod, with Bill Mosher as their teacher.

He talked about Neurons and explained a Meme: “an idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”  We understood what it meant, because it’s crucial for developing an engaging story we human beings can remember. 

After a Journey — through Struggles and Challenges — the audience traveled to the Dawning moment at which Change occurred and the Future was affected.  Several stories helped us truly understand how the Future can be different thanks to something the listener, viewer and/or donor does.  Stories are told with details in some areas and by leaving things to the listener’s imagination in other areas, especially when it comes to imagining the future: the change that can be accomplished thanks to action

So, what does this mean for nonprofits? We often try to tell our own story which is not always successful.  Rather, we should think of people in our organization who have gone on the “journey” and have come to that “dawning moment.”  Think of how someone has made a difference because of it.  Stories are not put together in a logical way, but they need to take us on that journey. We need to hear about the challenges and struggles without telling us the solution.

Stories are never written in committee.  Stories should be kept separate from the call to action.  Have someone help you tell your organization’s story.  And share the challenges leading up to the dawning moment.  What the listener, viewer or donor does after that, well that’s up to his or her own imagination… it’s his or her solution that will make the change.  And if it’s a good story, you know change will happen.


Thanks again to Erica for this guest post:  Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution, ( helped organize this workshop on Cape Cod after she was introduced to Bill. She contributed to this article.  Bill Mosher is available to hold workshops in your area or is happy to come talk to your organization, simply check out the web site or send him an email at

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June 1, 2010 at 5:35 pm
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