Story Tools!

Posted By: Melanie Campbell News,

Every day, I experience a growing need to advocate for our homeowners, families, and communities. Documenting impact is a crucial part of doing that successfully. Metrics, surveys, and aggregate data have become an integral part of our home repair programs. When combined with a real person’s emotional story, our statement of impact becomes even more powerful.

This is why the 2019 ReFrame Conference theme, "ReFrame {your/the/our} Story," gets me inspired!

In my day-to-day fundraising and marketing activities, I’m often faced with the things we have a shortage of - funding, volunteers, new grant opportunities, time. One thing I never face a shortage of is the inspiring stories of homeowners we’ve served. Rebuild Upstate served 172 homeowners last year - and each one has a story worth telling. In fact, access to stories is one of the few things I have in abundance. The resource that often limits my ability to prioritize our storytelling is time.

Choosing to prioritize storytelling is one of the best time investments I made. Not only does engaging with homeowners energize me, but I gain one more way to share the impact of our mission with our stakeholders.

So often, we focus on the interview and write-up that we forget about the importance of what comes before and after. A few tools have been extremely useful as we’ve prioritized storytelling to ensure we’re providing the best environment for our homeowners and using stories to meet our other goals. So useful, in fact, that all the buzz around storytelling has inspired us to share them with you. I’ve turned them into templates to share in the ReFrame Association Resource Library. These templates can be easily revised or updated to meet your organization’s needs. 

The Story and Media Consent Form Template will help your organization be transparent with your homeowners about sharing their story means. The Storybank and Tracking Template will ensure stories remain useful long after the social media and blog posts become dated and provide a quick way to search through stories if needed.

Story and Media Consent Form Template 

Even if your homeowner/client release form covers using their photo or name for storytelling purposes, you should also use a story and media consent form. I’ve linked a few useful sources explaining why at the end of this article. Each person’s story, voice, and photograph is their own. It is not mine to use at my convenience for marketing and fundraising goals. Sharing a story is just one way to partner with our organization.

Using a story and media consent form ensures your homeowner, volunteers, and staff are on the same page about how the homeowner chooses if/how their story is to be communicated.

Members of ReFrame Association can access the template for free in the resource library here. There are tips for using the form on the second page.

Story Bank and Tracking Template

Our story bank saved me hours last summer when a media opportunity unexpectedly came up.

We released our 100th home served (annually) press release. That piece typically gets media response. Although most of our media pick-ups happen via blogs or newspapers, on this occasion, we got a response from a news station. At 10:00 am, a news team came to our office (no call ahead) and asked for the chance to interview a homeowner and feature us on the 6:00 pm news. They need production time, so the sooner they can interview the homeowner, the better.

Obviously, I said, “Of course!" 

A small moment of panic ensued, then I remembered I had a story bank for this very purpose.

They wanted a homeowner in Greenville, South Carol. As the marketing officer, I wanted a homeowner who had an inspirational story and would be home on short notice. I also wanted a repair that was done by a local volunteer group. Not to mention, the first priority was choosing a homeowner who was willing to share their story and name through a very public video.

Within an hour, I had an interview lined up. Our organization was able to participate (and provide a seamless experience for the news team!) because of our story bank and choosing to prioritize stories earlier in the year. I had all the notes I needed to react swiftly in our story bank.

You can see the news story here.

Collecting stories will only be as useful to your organization as you make it. Let your work collecting stories continue to work for you when it comes to communicating stories. If you have multiple staff or volunteers collecting stories, housing a high-level overview of each story in one place helps staff understand each story, even without being present for the interview itself. 

The story bank tracking template is fairly intuitive and can easily be replicated for tracking volunteer and donor stories. Not to mention, visually seeing each story listed in the story bank is an inspiring reminder of how far our team has come to document stories.

Members of ReFrame Association can access the template for free in the resource library here

Here are some tips for using this form:

  • You can easily tailor the form to your organization’s needs. Just recently, I added a “funding agency” category to make it easier to report stories back to the funder. 
  • Keep universal use in mind - marketing may use this for social media, but in advocacy, it may be useful to know which legislator the homeowner is a constituent of. When tailoring the story bank for your team, keep everyone’s interests in mind. 
  • Develop your own terms for coding that keep story themes consistent and easy to understand. I often tag “accessibility,” “faith,” or “volunteer appreciation” so I can find what I need quickly. The more similar your terms are, the easier it will be to find what you’re looking for later. BONUS: Add filters or drop-down features once you feel confident your coded terms will be consistent for ease of searching.

Feeling inspired?

Check out some of my favorite resources on capturing and telling stories: 


This month’s article is by Melanie Campbell, a development specialist at Rebuild Upstate in Greenville, South Carolina. She focuses on engaging individual donors with Rebuild Upstate’s mission. Melanie is an advocate for reporting how funds were used to make each donor see the impact they helped create. Melanie has an MBA with a focus in nonprofit management from Lipscomb University and is the volunteer coordinator of the ReFrame blog.