sorytelling for nonprofits vs. private businesses

Storytelling For Nonprofits Vs. Private Businesses

Storytelling has become a powerful marketing tool for both private businesses and nonprofits. And no wonder why – people love stories and connect with them like few other marketing strategies. Told well, stories can also have a significant impact on brand perception and engagement. That said, storytelling for nonprofits vs. private businesses can look quite different.

In this post, we explore what those differences are so you can more effectively implement your own storytelling.

7 Differences Between Storytelling For Nonprofits Vs. Private Businesses

1. Purpose

There is always a purpose or mission that drives your storytelling efforts – even if it’s not directly stated. This is true regardless of whether you’re a nonprofit or private business. It is the reason that people work at your organization, and the main goal that you are striving for. This mission can be as specific or aspirational as you want; just always make sure that your employees have it top of mind!

Nonprofits: The purpose of storytelling will often focus on social issues. This is the area most nonprofits operate in, so it makes sense that their stories would center on it.  This type of organization can also advocate for a specific cause. Because of this, their storytelling will usually revolve around those affected that they have helped.

Private businesses: In contrast, the purpose and mission of a business is usually bringing about change in a customer’s life through their product or service. Their storytelling will then be centered around the benefits and value they offer to their customers. This has a number of effects on the stories that are most relevant (and thus shared more often) to their audience.

2. Emotional Appeal

Effective storytelling relies on evoking emotions to create a connection with the audience. Think about your own behavior with either a nonprofit or business: which organization’s story was the most convincing? Likely the one that most effectively evoked some kind of emotion in you!

Nonprofits: The emotional appeal of a nonprofit’s story usually centers around empathy or compassion. This is because they will share personal stories about the challenges individuals face. In addition, a sense of urgency can also play a big part. Done right, this kind of emotion can engage supporters and inspire them to get involved. 

Private businesses: Much more focused on a sense of aspiration. A private business doesn’t just tell you to buy something – they try to convey how your life will change if you do. The emotional appeal of their storytelling thus has much more connection with desire and excitement. All of these emotions will more reliably drive purchasing decisions.

3. Target Audience

Storytelling for nonprofits vs. private businesses will differ widely on the target audience. This is important to remember – for storytelling to be effective, a story needs to be told to the right person. Get your target audience right, and not only will people connect more with your stories, but you will be able to more often influence their actions.

Nonprofits: The target audience for a nonprofit’s story should be individuals who are passionate about their cause. Depending on what the nonprofit does, this can also mean people that align with their values or have a personal connection to the issues they address. The effect? Your stories are told to the people most likely to consume it, and are more impactful as a result.

Private businesses: For a company, their target audience will typically resemble their ideal customer. This kind of information will often be based on certain demographics, interests, and buying behaviors of their current customers. As for the role of storytelling? Given the right target audience, it will be all about appealing to the desires, needs, and aspirations of people who are ready to purchase.

4. Call to Action

A call to action in a story is essential. Indeed, you may very well tell a great story about your organization, but it’s not going to result in much if you don’t ask people to actually do something. 

Nonprofits: A nonprofit’s story will often be angled to drive more donations, volunteer participation, or advocacy on behalf of their cause. These are the main actions that they are often looking for. As a result, the nonprofit should shape their call to action accordingly. As for where you put it? While it can be a number of places (including your web pages, emails, or social media posts), an effective call to action will be seen wherever your target audience spends the most time.  

Private businesses: Because a private business’s main goal (regardless of the medium or platform) is to sell something, stories will encourage consumers to make a purchase, sign up for a service, or engage with their brand. Their storytelling revolves around creating a desire for their offerings and guiding the audience towards a specific transaction or engagement.

5. Authenticity

If you want to to tell a story that is truly impactful, people need to believe it. They need to buy into your story, and they need to trust you enough to know that the story you’re telling is real. This is where authenticity comes in. 

Nonprofits: To tell an authentic story, one of the best things a nonprofit can do is to be transparent about the use of their funds. Where is the money going? What are donations actually being spent on, and how are different initiatives being funded? Be upfront about this, and not only will people more willingly buy into your story – they will also be encouraged to donate even more.

Private businesses: Authenticity in a company’s storytelling is directly tied to a brand’s values. What do they stand for? How do their products and services speak to their wider mission? These are questions that employees should be thinking about when crafting their next story. It’s also worth considering the role of social proof in stories. People want to see authentic results from other customers. Indeed, this is about as authentic as a brand can get!

6. Collaboration

Just like any other marketing effort, storytelling can greatly benefit from working with others. But how will this collaboration look for the best results? When considering storytelling for nonprofits vs. private businesses, the process is quite similar.

Nonprofits: A nonprofit will often work together with other organizations, influencers, or public figures in their space to amplify their storytelling efforts. By partnering with organizations and people with the same cause, they can put their story in front of more people. The result? More donations and a higher overall impact. Just be sure to work with the right partners!

Private businesses: Collaboration for private businesses looks much the same. If they want their story to be seen by more potential customers, they can consider collaboration with other brands or businesses that deal with the same type of customer. Like any other partnership, this will allow them to tap into brand new audiences

7. Success

Lastly, what does the “success” of a story look like? How do you know you’ve accomplished your mission?

Measuring the success of storytelling efforts is essential for both nonprofits and private businesses. However, the metrics used to evaluate impact may vary. 

Nonprofits: Storytelling for a nonprofit will often track metrics related to donor engagement, funds raised, and volunteer participation. In addition, successful stories will also measure the number of individuals reached with their message.

Private businesses: A company, meanwhile, will focus on metrics related to brand awareness, customer acquisition, and total revenue generated. Overall, they measure the effectiveness of their storytelling by its impact on sales and business growth.

Are you an enterprise, nonprofit or small business looking for help on your website? Give us a shout! We provide a free consultation. Email us at or call us at (718) 855-1919!

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