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08 January 2018

The importance between nonprofit branding and storytelling

The connection between branding and storytelling is quite simple. The first place your brand should come to life is in your origin story.

And the telling of that origin story – actually of all your stories – should match your brand personality.

But why? Why should you or your staff or your board care to have a nonprofit origin story or a clearly defined brand personality?

Because a compelling origin story told with a clear brand personality will:

  • Give your nonprofit a solid communications foundation.
  • Help you consistently and effectively communicate with your stakeholders – from donors to volunteers to community members to decision makers.
  • Explain why your organization exists and why your audience should join you.

Passion led us here

How to tell your origin story

This is the story of how your nonprofit came to be. This is the story from which all other stories in your nonprofit should spin off and evolve.

So it’s important. But how should you tell it?

You should tell your origin story using typical methods for storytelling — introduce a problem and one or more protagonists, and then a solution — your nonprofit.

Your story should answer these questions:

  • Who was primary to starting this nonprofit? Paint us a picture.
  • When was this?
  • Where were they?
  • What relevant things were happening in this person’s life, community, or in the larger world?
  • Why did they start a nonprofit? The why is the most important part of your origin story.



You want to keep the focus on the founder – or founders – of the organization.

You want to reveal their motivation. Help people relate to the founder so that they can also see themselves in future stories. Your donors and volunteers should be the heroes in future stories.

You want to show how the founder saw a problem, saw a solution (the nonprofit), and developed the solution through good old-fashioned hard work.

 

You may need to do some research.

Perhaps you can interview the founder or founders. If they are impossible to reach, can you interview others close to them?

Interviews are rich with storytelling material and hopefully a few anecdotes that will make the characters relatable and interesting.

 

Match your origin story with your brand personality

So, you’re ready to tell your nonprofit’s origin story – or to improve upon it by doing more research and retelling it as a classic hero-problem-solution story.

The next questions to answer are: Who is the storyteller? And what are they like?

 

The storyteller is not you – it’s your nonprofit.

Thus, the style of writing should match not your personality, but your nonprofit’s brand personality.

If your brand was a person, what are four to six adjectives you would use to describe it?

Is your organization serious and learned? Is it fun and saucy? Is it calm and in command?

Understanding your nonprofit’s origin story should help you as you develop these adjectives that will become your brand personality. The two should match – and in fact, all of the writing from your organization (blog posts, web copy, social media posts, speeches, and even press releases to some degree) should match your nonprofit brand personality.

Finally, these adjectives will help anyone who is communicating about your nonprofit be consistent now and in the future.

So get together, with your staff and maybe also your board, and discuss the adjectives that describe your brand.  

If you need a place to start or a list to sort through, search the web for “brand personality adjectives.”

World map with pins

Compelling origin story + defined brand personality = solid communications foundation

Knowing your nonprofit origin story and brand personality will be immensely helpful both inside and outside of your organization.

First, they help hone an organization’s internal and external culture.

You should ensure your staff, board, and volunteers know your origin story and can repeat the general gist of it. These folks are your ambassadors, and if they don’t know your origin story, no one else will.

Moreover, when your communications are not quite on the mark, having a consensus about your nonprofit’s brand personality can help your team identify and communicate what went wrong.

Reiterating your brand’s personality and ensuring everyone who talks about your organization is aligned can help avoid future mishaps.

Natalie B.

Headshot of Natalie Bennon

Natalie Bennon is a nonprofit communications and marketing consultant for AmDee LLC and other clients nationwide.