Storytelling dates back to over 27,000 years ago with ancient prehistoric drawings and paintings on cave walls.

Our brains are wired for storytelling. According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience. In fact, Jeremy Tsu found, “Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

The use of storytelling can be more than just a sales strategy for your association, but also a useful platform to engage with your audience and give a voice to those who don’t have one. According to the Meyer Foundation, a vibrant storytelling culture can mean the difference between having one, somewhat stagnant story that represents your organization’s impact and a living, breathing portfolio of different stories told from different perspectives.

So, what makes a good story? The “Stories Worth Telling“ study writes that for a nonprofit story to be effective, it has to capture the “what happened” whether this is a transformation, a discovery, a journey or an experience”.

Here are five essential building blocks to help bring your association’s story to life:

1. An Effective Character

Stories should contain a single, compelling character that is relatable to the audience and who is comfortable relaying specific details, memories and experiences.

2. Trajectory

Stories should chronicle something that happens—an experience, a journey, a transformation, a discovery—but they don’t need to be a linear, sequential recounting every time.

3. Authenticity

Stories should show—rather than tell—the audience about the character’s transformation, using rich details and featuring the character’s own voice, devoid of jargon.

4. Action-Oriented Emotions

Stories should convey emotions that move people to act and marry these with clear, easy-to-find pathways to get them to those desired actions.

5. A Hook

Stories should capture the audience’s attention as quickly as possible, giving them a sense of whose story it is and what’s at stake.

We all have a story, and effectively sharing that story with our audience is the key to bringing it to life. What storytelling tips has your association found useful?