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Understanding Storytelling

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel - Maya Angelou

When nonprofits talk about their work, there is a tendency to emphasise dry facts and figures, or ‘NGO-speak’ (inaccessible jargon). If you want your work to resonate with people, inspire change, win support, or even attract donors, the key communications tool you need to master is storytelling.

A viral tweet once mocked Whole Foods, a large American supermarket, for selling peeled oranges wrapped in plastic. The post had over 100 000 shares. On the surface, this seems like a simple issue, one of unnecessary environmental waste. However, several people with disabilities quickly responded to the post, telling their stories: "Preparing food with limited mobility is both hugely time consuming and potentially dangerous. While adapted cooking tools do exist to help offset those issues, they are really expensive, " Kim Sauder, a Ph.D. candidate in disability studies, explained on her blog. "Anything that helps make my regular acts of daily life safer and more convenient is always a plus. So I was one of a number of disabled people who pushed back against the wholesale shaming of pre-prepared foods."

Having people with disabilities tell their stories about how peeled oranges are not a wasteful extravagance, but an important accessibility issue, helped open the minds of many who would not otherwise have considered this issue.

Stories communicate meaning and passion, something people can relate to. Stories can inspire social change or launch a movement. Stories can change hearts and change lives.


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Ruen Govinder | Hashtag Nonprofit

Founder and Executive Director, Hashtag Nonprofit

Ruen Govinder is the founder and director of Hashtag Nonprofit. She has over 20 years of experience in consulting and managing online communications and technology for the development sector. She produced a series of e-books on communications strategies for nonprofits, and has worked with clients across Africa and in the United States.

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