We've said it before: stories are powerful tools for nonprofit communicators. That said, a story will fall flat if it is not written or presented well. Follow these simple guidelines for finding and writing a story that is not only engaging, but also improves how your message is presented to the world.
  1. Identify the good story. Not every event at your nonprofit is a story. A story shouldn't be about everything your nonprofit is doing. Look for a single, compelling focus, and if possible, a strong peg such as a trend, a news hook, an upcoming event, or an amazing human interest story about one of your employees or the people you are helping.

  2. Stay focused. Keep the point of your story in mind as you collect facts and conduct interviews so that you don't clutter your story with unnecessary information.

  3. Don't try to get fancy with your writing. Use clear, straightforward language, and tell your story in a logical sequence. If you are writing something technical, find a way to translate it into more accessible language. How would you explain it to your mother? A stranger?

  4. Find great anecdotes to illustrate your story. Don't expect the anecdotes - particularly ones that tap into emotions - to come within five minutes of interviewing people involved in your story. Take the time to really talk with them while probing for the best details. These anecdotes bring the story to life and often provide a good introduction or conclusion for your story.

  5. Ask detailed questions in your interview. If you're telling a story about helping a family who can't afford groceries, ask what is in the refrigerator, or what their typical breakfast is. Use those details to make your reader hear, feel, see, taste and smell what you are writing about.

  6. Don't take a "kitchen sink" approach. Be concise. Include a few well-placed and powerful anecdotes or quotes instead of  cramming in every detail. Pick and choose what best conveys your message and the emotion of the story.

  7. Tell your readers why they should care. A reader has to be emotionally invested in a story to be compelled to act. How does your subject affect them and the world around them?

  8. Answer the question: Why now? Give your story a sense of urgency and make it timely. Stories that feel "old" are of no interest to the media or potential readers.

  9. Make your story part of a larger picture. Is the problem you are writing about regional -- such as a drought? Then make it part of a national problem, and let readers know that severe droughts are becoming more common in other areas of the country.

  10. Proofread. Better yet, have someone else proofread your story before publishing it. Make sure to catch any errors while checking to make sure the story makes sense. Does it have a clear beginning, middle and end? Are the facts correct? Does it answer the questions that it raises? Is any information missing?