– Elizabeth Wagner, CFRE
Vice President, Development[/push]

We recently talked about telling success stories.  But what is really compelling in a success story? It must be …


First, the story has to be true.  You can change unimportant details to protect someone’s identity, but the core of the story, the part about your organization’s work, must be correct and factual.


The story should be about what you do.  Ideally, your mission has a central focus, and the success story ties into and reinforces that focus.


The story should be easy to tell and re-tell.  As it passes through the community – and we all hope our stories will! – a complicated story gets all mixed up.  Then, the truthful core and the mission focus slide away, and the story is no longer helping you.


A great story expresses a problem, resolves the problem, and has a happy ending.  That narrative arc helps the listener realize how important and transformative your organization’s work has been.


When a story is about one person, instead of a group, it is easy to understand.  Whenever possible, tell the story if your work through the lens of one recipient of its services.  Listeners can relate to the experience of another human being, even if they haven’t had the same needs.

Have you heard a great success story recently?  What made it so interesting?  How could you make the same techniques work for you?