Written in blood and sweat: Why storytelling matters to NGOs
As a brand storytelling company, we regularly find ourselves trying to conceive a story for our clients based on their business goals. Despite our best efforts to breathe facts, anecdotes of real-life impact and humanity into these stories, they are fictitious in all honesty.
This is the reason why we love NGOs.
NGOs and charitable organizations are focused on social and humanitarian causes, and importantly free of the commercial shackles that bound businesses.
The blood that courses through their operations and makes their survival possible is emotion. Think about it, people donate or volunteer because they are pressed by emotion. Team members work day and night because they are motivated by the emotional appeal of the cause and the impact they could make.
So the assets of a NGO are its emotional appeal and the impact it creates in the society, which makes it easier for them to narrate stories, real stories.
But why should NGOs bother with storytelling?
A story humanizes an organization. It makes people think of a concrete building, or a two-dimensional logo as if it were a person of flesh and blood. By wrapping the values and mission statement of the NGO in a story establish its brand identity and creates a deeper sense of purpose and meaning for their audience. UNICEF uses storytelling to create an emotional connection with their audience and to build their brand as an organization that cares about the rights and well-being of children. Doctors Without Borders uses storytelling in their branding to showcase the life-saving work they do in some of the world's most challenging environments, and to help people understand the importance of their mission.
A well-told story has the ability to engage people and inspire them to take an action, support a cause or contribute to a fund; not just for outsiders, but also for team members of a NGO. It is true that they signed up to work because they were passionate about the cause, but can it keep them continuing? The nature of NGO work can be emotionally and physically taxing, and the issues they are addressing can be complex and challenging, making team members tired and lose their original passion. Stories could be the motivational drink that could spring them up and encourage them to go the distance. Amnesty International: Amnesty International shares stories of people whose human rights have been violated to educate their team members about the importance of their work, and to keep them motivated to continue fighting for human rights.
By sharing real-life stories and experiences, NGOs can showcase the impact of their work and help people understand the challenges and triumphs of those they serve. This can help to build a stronger emotional connection with the audience and inspire them to get involved. Oxfam uses storytelling in their communications to show the impact of their work and the stories of the people they help.
Human Rights Watch - HRW uses storytelling to document and publicize human rights abuses and to bring attention to specific cases and issues. Therefore incorporating storytelling in communications improves awareness, chances of funding and support for the NGO's cause, and can also contribute to positive social and political change.