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Storytelling Template: How Finding Nemo Can Help Your Nonprofit Tell Its Story

Storytelling is not just for children – it’s an important part of your nonprofit. Who you are, where you came from, and the causes you serve are all important parts of your journey – and important to your supporters!

A well-crafted story can be the deciding factor between whether that supporter donates or not: more than half (56%) of nonprofit supporters on the social web say reading a compelling story motivates them to take action and 68% are motivated to donate based on that story!

In addition to donating, readers show their support in the following ways:(Source: Digital Persuasion by Waggener Edstrom)

(Source:  Digital Persuasion by Waggener Edstrom)

Those are compelling figures, and it makes financial sense to invest some time in crafting your nonprofit’s story for all of your messaging channels. As Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, said,

In order to move others, we need to become much better at clearly stating what it is we want and where it is we want people to go.

So how can you get your general supporter to be a volunteer? How can you turn your donors into repeat donors? How can you create an engaging, motivating story, to gain these results? Well, we look to Pixar.

Think about it, Pixar can keep you and your whole family enthralled for hours – imagine if you could do the same for your nonprofit.

Emma Coats, a former Pixar story artist, thought up the Pixar Pitch framework after listening to her directors and coworkers talk about storytelling all day:

Once upon a time, there was _____________________. Every day, ___________________. Then one day, ___________________. Because of that, _______________. Because of that, ________________. Until finally, ___________________.

Let’s put it into practice for you with the popular story, Finding Nemo (courtesy of Dan Pink)

Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo. Every day, Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away. Then one day, in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water. Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. Because of that, Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way. Until finally, Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite, and learn that love depends on trust.


This framework doesn’t work exclusively for fictional storytelling. Every organization can follow it to write an engaging and true story that will attract donors, volunteers, and all your other supporters.

Take a look at this example for an “About Us” page:

Before the Pixar Pitch:

“We’re an after school program started by a group of motivated teachers and dedicated volunteers that noticed students were falling behind because they weren’t doing their homework. We help students complete their homework and reading before they go home to unsupervised activities since their parents are still at work. We’ve seen great success in our program and even see our students helping those not in the program with their homework!”

After the Pixar Pitch:

“Once upon a time there was a community school riddled with young children who often spent long hours alone after school. Every day, the students would go home and, with parents busy at work, they would have little guidance in their homework and other after school activities. Then one day, one teacher noticed that half of her students hadn’t done their reading logs because their parents hadn’t been home to help with the reading. Because of that, she decided to get a group of teachers and adult volunteers to start a free of charge after school reading and homework program. Because of that, the children completed their homework and reading assignments much more consistently. Until finally, the children who had previously been among the poorest performers in the class skyrocketed to the top and were helping other students in the class with their homework!”

The first story does its job. It tells a very basic story of the organization – how it started, the cause it serves, and the results. The second story does the same and then some. It engages!

And that engagement will translate into dollars. If we follow the same statistics we read earlier, a donor appeal to just 100 people with an engaging and compelling story can potentially bring in $2,589 (based on the average online donation of $68)!

What story are you telling your donors? Your volunteers? Download our Nonprofit Storytelling Template and craft a new, engaging story for your nonprofit!


Download The Guide