In the world of nonprofit and social services, it’s important for you to stand out (after all, there are 1.6 million nonprofits in the U.S.!). One of the best ways to distinguish your organization is to share compelling success stories!
So, the question is, how do you write a success story?
This post will define what makes a success story, discuss why they are important, and provide tips on how you can develop your own success story.
WHAT IS A SUCCESS STORY?
A success story is a brief narrative that highlights the accomplishments of a program or partnership. Success stories discuss the progress and improvement of your program, and are often told through the lens of one client’s experience with your program. By sharing your success story, other organizations, clients, and community members discover the true value and impact of your program.
WHY ARE SUCCESS STORIES IMPORTANT?
Aside from raising visibility and highlighting your organization’s achievements, success stories can also:
- Help you engage with diverse and non-traditional partners.
- Motivate others to support (and fund!) your organization.
- Increase advocacy for your program and organization.
- Allow you to share program and intervention best practices, which can help establish your organization as an expert in your field.
- Improve staff and volunteer morale.
- Inspire others to share their own success stories.
- Help you win more grants!
STRUCTURE FOR AN EFFECTIVE SUCCESS STORY
Most success stories highlight a client’s accomplishments. In some cases, they demonstrate the value of a partnership. However, in both cases success stories should capture the overall impact of your program or partnership.
Fortunately, most nonprofits and social service organizations already have the information needed to write their own success stories. Someone just needs to take the opportunity to share client experiences and achievements. By doing so, you create more opportunities for your organization.
When it’s time to write your success story, it’s important to capture all the details. Be sure to include specific details about your program and intervention methods used. Discuss the community context and need for your program. This is your opportunity to educate others and gain support for your great work!
When developing your story, you may want to include the following sections:
- Be sure to capture your audience with a catchy, up-beat title.
- Identify the need and explain why it is important.
- Describe the target population and discuss any barriers they are facing.
- Use supporting data from community health assessments to frame the problem and need for your program.
- Describe the program that was implemented and how it addressed the problem.
- Discuss the roles of the partners involved.
- Describe the impact of your program and positive client behavior change.
- Explain what measures were used to evaluate the program. Be sure to include qualitative and/or quantitative measures.
- Identify how the program addressed the problem.
- Provide a conclusion to the success story.
- Emphasize the overall benefits of the program.
- Name of organization and program contact.
- Supporting materials, such as quotes from clients and partners, promotional materials, photos, video, audio clips, etc.
- Obtain permission from clients and partners when appropriate.
Keep in mind – if you’re going to be sharing any identifying information or photos of clients, you’ll need to get clients’ permission and a media release in advance. Even if they aren’t willing to have their name or photo shared, they may be okay with you using a fake name.
SHARING YOUR SUCCESS STORY
So, after you’ve written your success story, it’s time to share it with others.
There are many ways to share your success story, such as including it in your regular newsletter or featuring it on your organization’s website. It’s also helpful to include it in your annual report to illustrate the progress of your programs. Your board members, partners, and funders will love getting updates on program outcomes and impact.
Social media is another great medium for sharing your success stories as you may be able to connect with other people who may not be within your direct network and are not familiar with your work. Additionally, this provides the opportunity for others to support you financially or through volunteering.
Sharing success stories should not be a one-time occurrence. Best practices suggest that most organizations should write a success story every quarter, however, your organization can determine how often to publish your stories. Regular story sharing can help establish open communication with partners and can allow you to receive feedback on new ways to improve and expand your programs.
As you can imagine, creating success stories is just the beginning. Once you begin sharing, you will inspire other organizations to write and share their own success stories. Most importantly, your partners will have the chance to celebrate your clients’ successes and the impact of your program. So, I encourage you to make sharing success stories a fundamental part of your organization. Your programs deserve recognition!
Until next time!
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