This post was originally posted on the Minds On Design Lab Blog

I recently saw an example of storytelling that was so well crafted I didn’t even care when I found out it was actually an ad for a mobile game and Chipotle Mexican Grill. In fact, I immediately downloaded the game and made a commitment to give them more of my burrito funds in the near future.

Setting aside any personal feelings about this video or the brand behind it, there are three things nonprofits can learn from this storytelling example to improve their ability to connect and drive action.

The key is to not only include the following elements but sequence them correctly as well. Like any good story you need the setup, the conflict and the resolution.


Issue Up Front

The story doesn’t start with brand or the call to action. It starts with taking the time to introduce some of the characters and then illustrate what the issues and conflicts are. As an organization you can’t assume others understand or care about your cause simply because you share data about how many homeless you serve or the number of endangered black-footed prairie dogs you are trying to save.

Presenting the issue in a way that is emotionally relatable gets people saying “yes” even before they know what the Call to Action is.


The Why and How

After presenting the issue most nonprofits will present the “what”. What it is they do about the issue. Then they ask for money so they can do it. Instead, try making an emotional connection and then presenting why your work matters to the issue and how it can create change.

This sets people up to be in agreement with you that the issue is important, it impacts their lives and they are instilled with a sense of hope that change is possible.



Where a lot of nonprofits fall short is that they try to end their stories with a fairytale ending. That what they are selling is “the solution” when what they should be selling is an opportunity with a sense of hope.

While a fairytale ending may leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, it gives no reason to continue to care about the characters, the story or take further action. On the other hand, a story that ends with a sense of hope but that there is more to come, leaves you wanting to read the sequel or even better become part of the story yourself.

Does the video contain elements of branding? Of course. Does it use tactics to pull at your emotions? Of course. Are these elements your nonprofit story should use as well? Of course.

So whether it is a video, your website, a print brochure or the narrative you create across your social media channels you should be sharing a story that compels.

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