Examining storytelling in the not-for-profit organization: A strategy to connect its community

Brent King, Mount Saint Vincent University
Not-for-profit organizations have a compelling rationale and urgency to tell their story to key constituents. They must maintain crucial relationships with their stakeholders: donors, volunteers, supporters, and the media. The right story can be instrumental. It can illustrate an organization's mission, demonstrate stewardship and reinforce the affinity of proponents. Two chosen Canadian organizations exemplify not-for-profit storytelling. Each has a humanitarian mission—including outreach in response to Haiti's earthquake crisis.
Médecins Sans Frontières offers first-response emergency medical aid. Absolute Leadership Development organizes the nation's youth to build homes and schools in poor countries. Analysis of the two entities indicates the communications potential inherent in strategically telling stories. Narrative is defined organically as "an active living thing that's always got fresh life" or the "one emblematic story [that's] going to make people care." While the story content is acknowledged to be negatively scripted, the outcome remains positive.
A narrator's authentic, truthful, first-hand voice is integral to a story's credibility. The reader resonates with the experiential framing, especially if the scenario is conveyed in a genuine, conversational manner that need not suppress emotions entirely. Narrative can outweigh numbers: a testimonial-like vehicle transports impact in a way that facts and figures cannot. Storytelling's strengths facilely accommodate the dynamics of social media. Blogs, in particular, present real-life vignettes, realizing a so-called state-of-the-heart technology. Blogs humanize an organizational façade, partially through emotional connectivity. A sense of online community is created through stories' intrinsic bonding mechanism.

For PDF of related poster click here.

Brent Wilson King
Brent Wilson King,
Associate Professor, 
Department of Communication Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University
For 20+ years, Prof. Brent King's passion has been to teach writing of professional calibre. His commitment to clear, concise, competent writing has evolved from journalism to persuasion to creative non-fiction or personal narrative. This classroom experience has defined and motivated his research focus on organizational storytelling. Prof. King has designed innovative assignments with community clients, encouraging students to develop strong portfolios. An experiential learning advocate, Prof. King has published co-operative education research. He helped develop a first-year foundation course, UNIV 1101, winning the 2005 Instructional Leadership Award. His one-line teaching philosophy: "Words, thoughtfully crafted, become the communicator's tools."