I used to teach kindergarten. This is relevant, I promise. One of the highlights for me was getting to read the writing of 29 creative little minds, uninhibited by conventions or, at times, reality. It always amazed me that shortly after we moved past the basics of putting pencil to paper, genuine stories started to show up. These early stories were often linear, progressing from one major event to the next.
But after a few months working with various genres, we arrived at small moment stories; that is, taking a specific moment in time and “zooming in,” highlighting the details for your reader.
And something remarkable happened.
Those same stories about playing with a little brother or falling off a scooter became compelling. Sure, I was biased. I mean they were “my kids.” But these stories, once a mere presentation of events, became far more insightful and personal.
Details are compelling. Details help connect your reader with your writing. And yet, all the time I come across nonprofit websites (and sites from all sectors) that lack any meaningful detail. Sure, there’s a stiff dose of sales jargon and a healthy pinch of relevant buzzwords. But I don’t connect with those things – I connect with specifics.
Instead of writing about every way your nonprofit benefits every member of the community, highlight one person. And tell their story. What does he look like? What does his home smell like? What does it sound like when he laughs? What did he say that you’d never considered before? And in what concrete, tangible and specific ways did your organization have an impact on his life? Now that sounds like a good read to me.
There are going to be plenty of folks touting the importance of number crunching and sharing data that showcases your impact. I’m actually one of those people myself. But global impact data and hyper-focused small moment storytelling are not mutually exclusive approaches to sharing your nonprofit’s narrative. In fact, the two work together quite well to highlight different aspects of your organization and appeal to different website visitors.
You can use small moment storytelling in all kinds of ways. Use it to generate more compelling page content. Use it to write poignant blog posts. Use it in your email newsletters and share these stories on your social media channels. Use it when you’re talking to donors and volunteers.
My five-year-old students crafted falling off a scooter into a moving piece of writing. More nonprofits need to do the same with their stories.
Know of an organization effectively using small moment storytelling? I’d love to check it out. Please leave me a link in the comments below.