How to Gather Compelling Stories for Your Non-Profit


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This is the training presentation that I give to staff at National Wildlife Federation when teaching them how to gather emotionally compelling stories about our work.

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  • Like the sunshine (identify stories) shining through a window (gather stories) through a prism (share stories internally) to make a rainbow!
  • The background of the shot has meaning, whether you intend it to have that meaning or not.
  • Use these if you find you are flaking out in the middle of the interview.
  • We would never want to pressure someone to use their story – we are not “gotcha” journalists.
  • How to Gather Compelling Stories for Your Non-Profit

    1. 1. How to Gather Compelling Stories Prepared by Carla Brown, July 2012
    2. 2. What do you want to learn about Story Gathering?
    3. 3. Storytelling Process Development Identify Stories Gather Stories Share Stories Internally Development Membership Online Action Team Communications Regional Corp Relations Analytics Use / Test Stories Other Groups
    4. 4. Prepare - Research Research the person: • Google • Facebook • Their friends • Raiser’s Edge record The more you know, the more likely you will make an emotional connection.
    5. 5. Research • What is their #1 passion? • What innovative things have they done? • What is likely to be their legacy? • Why are they interesting? • Do they have children? • Is their past or current home significant? • What connected them to NWF? • Is there a place that is significant to their story?
    6. 6. Pre-Interview Are they worth interviewing in person? • Are you intrigued by them? • Do they paint a picture with their words? • Are they keen to help? • When you go home, would you tell your family about this person?
    7. 7. Pre-Interview Questions • What gives you the most energy right now? • How did you first become interested in conservation – and it can start in your childhood? • How do you revitalize yourself? • If you could have the people watching this story take one National Wildlife Federation related action, what would it be? • What has been the top moments with NWF? • What do you think NWF brings to the table that no other organization does?
    8. 8. Record or not? Recording allows you to: • Keep eye contact • Focus on your next question & emotional cues • Catch items later when you listen to the recording • More easily share the story across departments • A good online experience
    9. 9. How to Record an Interview • Audio only - laptop with Audacity (free software) and microphone (~$20) • Flip cam • Video camera with microphone • Tripod!!!! Practice so it’s not a source of stress at the interview.
    10. 10. What to Bring to the Interview Checklist in Storytelling Portal A)Recording Equipment B)Comfort / Thanking Items C)Paperwork
    11. 11. Choosing Location – Where to Meet? • Emotionally significant location • Outdoors if at all possible • Quiet, low or no wind
    12. 12. Where to Sit • Background tells story • Color contrast with face & hair color • Rich color better than white or gray • Should not be more light behind subject – glow effect
    13. 13. Framing • Subject looks just to the side of the camera or at camera
    14. 14. Rule of Thirds • Put important items where the lines meet • The most important item with stories are usually EYES
    15. 15. If you have a camera-person • Mostly close up, but initial shot might be further out, so you can put their name & title below • Can vary how tight between questions
    16. 16. Start at the beginning Ask about when they were young. This makes things: • Emotional • Factual but not dull • Intimate but not weird • Gives details you need to understand motivations
    17. 17. Listen • Never interrupt. When they finish speaking, count to five and see if they continue. Move slowly. Never let your voice overlap their voice. • Ask open questions
    18. 18. Keep Alert for Emotional Cues • As the person is talking, note whenever they get emotional, or you feel emotional. • Ask lots of questions about that. Repeat.Look for goose bumps and shivers.
    19. 19. Why focus on emotion in storytelling? Studies prove that emotional stories are far more likely to inspire action. Emotions = Elephant Rational Thought = Rider We can try to control our emotions, but they are key to what happens.
    20. 20. Architecture of a Good Story Person was going along doing something. Interesting & significant event happens Due to that event, they are now going to live in a different way.
    21. 21. The “Arc” of a Good Story
    22. 22. What is a good story according to NWF’s Storytelling Initiative?  Real person does something notable (perhaps courageous)  Clear connection with NWF  At the end, the audience is inspired to take an action REMEMBER:
    23. 23. You Find a Story! • Once you identify your story, encourage them to describe the scene in detail. • Keep asking “And then what?” • Avoid “How did that make you feel?” - they are in “What” mode, not “How” mode.
    24. 24. Back Pocket Questions • “Tell me more about that.” • “Why do you think that was so important to you?” • If they speak in generalities: “Can you describe a specific example where you observed what you mean?”
    25. 25. “After Moments” • Don’t rush the end of an interview. Keep camera on. Just sit and chat. • If possible, have two interviews. Often someone will tell you the best story after you are “finished” and things are more relaxed.
    26. 26. If Someone Gets Really Emotional • If it happens, do not push. • If someone reveals a very personal story, check back in a few days to make sure it is okay to share.
    27. 27. Before you finish asking questions:  Did the person clearly connect their story with NWF?  Is it clear what action a person would take? Ask, “If everyone who sees this story would take an action, what would you want them to do?”
    28. 28. After the Questions – “Filler” Shots • Footage of what they were talking about if nearby • Close up of hands when talking • Hands turning pages in a book or pointing at photos • Walking • Opening a door, entering • Talking on phone or with friend • Let them walk out of the shot
    29. 29. Take Photos of Your Subject • Near the place, people or wildlife they care about • In a natural setting • Mostly head shots, but some upper body or full body • Use framing techniques described earlier • Some smiling, some serious, some looking away from camera • With you!
    30. 30. Thanking People • NWF bottle filled with ice water (especially if interviewing in a warm place) • Fair trade chocolate bar • NWF calendar • People Towels • NWF children’s magazines if they have children • Hand-written thank you note mailed after the interview
    31. 31. Interviewing Children • Best when they are doing something else – drawing, walking, having a snack, looking at photos • “Go along” technique – walk with them as they describe a place
    32. 32. Set Expectations “I am very interested in your story.” “It will be used in a blog.” “We hope to feature your story in other places.” “I’ll let you know if we use your story.”
    33. 33. Say It with Less • When you are done putting together your story, see if you can cut it in half. • Get an objective editor.
    34. 34. What do you need to get started today?