From the Heart: An Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling

Javan Van Gronigen
Founder & Creative Director, Fifty & FIfty

While all nonprofits share the same overarching goal—to fulfill a specific social need, mission, or purpose—the details of each organization’s story vary. It’s this story that allows like-minded individuals who share your passion to connect with your nonprofit and achieve meaningful change. 

Whether you’re a new founder or have been in the space for some time, it always helps to learn new storytelling tips to evolve your tactics with your nonprofit. We’ll be covering these key areas of nonprofit storytelling:

  • Why Nonprofit Storytelling is Important
  • The Basic Elements of a Nonprofit’s Story
  • Tips for Creating Profound Nonprofit Stories
  • Top Nonprofit Storytelling Case Studies

This guide will help you understand the basics of nonprofit storytelling and how to hone your organization’s narrative. 

Why Nonprofit Storytelling is Important

Telling your story strategically is critical to achieving your mission because it:

  • Helps prospective supporters understand your nonprofit on a deeper level
  • Spreads the word about your cause and your beneficiaries
  • Can inspire people to embrace charitable activities and attitudes
  • Builds transparency and trust between your nonprofit and potential supporters
  • Differentiates your nonprofit from others by establishing your brand

Ultimately, your nonprofit’s story contextualizes your values, origins, and goals so you can better resonate with your audience. 

The Basic Elements of a Nonprofit’s Story

Compelling nonprofit stories are similar to those found in a book or told over generations. They have these components in common:

  • Introduction: Hook your audience with background information about your nonprofit, cause, staff, or beneficiaries. For instance, you might contextualize how your founder got inspired to create your organization.
  • Challenge or conflict: Present the social need that your nonprofit addresses every day, such as world hunger or childhood cancer.
  • Journey: Explain how your nonprofit addresses the challenge, whether that be through your programs, fundraisers, or advocacy campaigns. 
  • Impact: Show the result of your nonprofit’s hard work in tangible terms, such as the number of beneficiaries served over the course of a certain period of time. 
  • Call to action: Since your nonprofit is still growing and changing, your story doesn’t have an ending yet. Instead, leave your audience with a powerful call to action that encourages them to join your journey and shape your organization's course. 

While your story is centered around your organization, it should feature your most important stakeholders: your beneficiaries. Ensure that you amplify their voices by weaving your story with theirs to create an intricate tapestry of perspectives. The more emotional and beneficiary-focused your story is, the more that your audience will empathize with them and want to join your cause.

Tips for Creating Profound Nonprofit Stories

Now that you understand what is part of a great nonprofit story, let’s go over how to tell your story:

  • Keep it simple. The most effective stories are universally understandable. Use straightforward, yet powerful language that all audiences can resonate with. 
  • Show, don’t tell. Instead of telling your audience what your nonprofit does, show them through real-life examples. For instance, instead of simply saying that your animal shelter cares for abandoned animals, show the impact of your work by saying that you provide life-saving care and sustenance for over three thousand animals each year. This demonstrates your impact more effectively and helps your audience understand what their support will go towards.
  • Highlight testimonies from beneficiaries. Build your reputation and connect your audience with your mission by highlighting impactful stories from your beneficiaries. 
  • Incorporate photo and video content. When creating collateral like your annual report, your website’s “about” page, and nonprofit marketing materials, remember to use many types of media to better tell your story, especially photo and video content. Photo and video content works because it tells your story in a digestible, engaging, and shareable way so you can leverage social proof online. Plus, videos and photos can be repurposed to serve a variety of initiatives, as long as the subject matter is evergreen and relevant.
  • Emphasize your unique selling proposition. There are likely numerous other organizations in your niche—what sets you apart from them? Determine what makes your nonprofit unique and highlight it throughout your story to secure more support. 

These tips will help you resonate with your audience, bring your story to life, and demonstrate your case for support. 

Top Nonprofit Storytelling Case Studies

Before you start revamping your nonprofit story, consider these inspiring examples of organizations that have mastered storytelling., an example organization from Fifty & Fifty’s guide to nonprofit digital marketing, powerfully communicates its purpose and impact. On its “About Us” webpage, the organization uses data to display its programs’ effects across numerous verticals: showcases its global story with its impact metrics.

Additionally, goes above and beyond to “show, not tell” on its website: references specific forms of prejudice that it fights every day to emphasize how significant its impact is.

By putting its mission on a global scale and referencing forms of prejudice, demonstrates how vital its work is and which communities you’ll be supporting if you contribute to their cause. 

Habitat for Humanity

As one of the most famous nonprofits in the world, Habitat for Humanity has a complex story of transforming the lives of millions of people. However, they still effectively communicate their impact and purpose in this example of a digital greeting card from eCardWidget:

Habitat for Humanity represents part of its story by including beneficiaries building a gingerbread house on a charity eCard.

Though this Christmas eCard only contains a few words, Habitat for Humanity features its beneficiaries building a gingerbread house, which mirrors its mission of building houses for people experiencing homelessness. As such, the card evokes empathy from audiences, captures the giving spirit of Christmas, and showcases how nonprofits can weave their story into even the smallest forms of communication.


When SickKids needed a new way to maximize donor engagement and fundraising revenue during their virtual campaign, they successfully supplemented their strategy with video. This video complements SickKids’ story of providing life-saving medical care for children across Canada by showing patients in hospital beds, highlighting who would benefit from donations. Peer-to-peer fundraisers were also shown enthusiastically demonstrating their passion for the cause, which can inspire the viewer to give or create a campaign of their own.

Wrapping Up: Bringing Your Story to Life

Ultimately, your nonprofit’s history is facts and figures, but you can transform it into a captivating narrative by following this guide. If you’re inspired by our tips, consider amplifying your story by updating your website and social media profiles. You can also partner with a nonprofit marketing agency to help you create a comprehensive storytelling strategy. With the right approach and digital assets, you can bring your nonprofit’s story to life and motivate meaningful progress toward your organization’s vision.

Javan Van Gronigen
Founder & Creative Director, Fifty & FIfty

As Founder and Creative Director of Fifty & Fifty, Javan is the tip of the proverbial spear. Javan started his digital design career 20 years ago as Art Director for what is now one of the world’s largest digital agencies (Mirum, a JWT Company). He then moved on to Invisible Children where he was responsible for managing the team and all digital assets through the entire historic Kony 2012 campaign. At Fifty & Fifty, Javan has participated in and led every project, including 300+ websites, campaigns, and brands.

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