Nonprofits are beginning to realize the power of storytelling in persuading the public to back their cause and donate their money or time. Whether it’s a well-positioned short-story designed to add context or a longer-tale that provides a human face to a cause – stories have the power to inspire.
However, what is often less appreciated is who to inspire? Not just donors and politicians. But also, the next generation, who one day will need to take our place. To children, the world can be frightening, but as the wonderful Mister Rogers once said:
“When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
But how can the helpers tell their stories to young people? How can they inspire passion?
Find Your Characters
Who is at the heart of your story? How do they relate to the problem you’re trying to present? It’s vital to create a character and present a story that children can readily engage with. They must have traits children can understand. They must have a face, a voice, a purpose. However, be careful of presenting the non-profit as the hero. They are the solution. The hero(es) is the person who persevered through all the odds, who struggled.
Think of Bilbo in The Hobbit, or the Mouse who braved his way through the forest in The Gruffalo. Even the Very Hungry Caterpillar needed to find his dinner.
However, they must still be flawed. Perfection is boring.
Know Your Audience
Children aren’t little adults. So, you need to tailor your message to the age group. But they’re not babies either; children are tough. They know the world isn’t sunshine and roses. After all, Harry Potter’s life begins with a dreadful murder.
If you’re teaching children about a wildlife center, it’s ok to discuss the nasty poachers or the mother of an animal who died. Just don’t overdo it.
Find Your Villain
Every good story has a great villain. That doesn’t mean you need a cackling and dastardly despot to bring your story alive. Telling the story of a dog shelter doesn’t need a Cruella De Ville. A lack of funds can be a perfectly good villain, or rather conflict. The conflict is whatever your organization faces. But just like the hero, it must be relatable to your audience. If you’re fighting poverty, put it in a way the children will understand. Give them something to rally against.
Paint a Future
You’ve crafted your hero. You’ve presented the problem. Now you need to show these future leaders the solution. How did the people of your organization help? Whether it’s nursing an injured animal back to health, or building a well for the thirsty.
A sense of accomplishment, of possibility, will always inspire.
Show your audience, these future leaders, what they can do to help and how they can dedicate their lives. Make the story an invitation, an offer to become part of the next chapter. Paint a future.