story_collectionIn recent posts, we’ve discussed what makes a good story, and how to decide which stories to tell. The next step is to find the right stories and collect them in an efficient manner. Your supporters and constituents have inspiring stories to tell, and your job is bring those stories to life, and to light. Fortunately, a handful of smart organizations have already started building and using story collection tools, which means you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

If you listen to NPR, you’re likely familiar with StoryCorps, a 10-year old oral history project that records everyday people’s personal stories and produces written, audio and animated versions of the stories for publication and broadcast. If you live in San Francisco, Atlanta or Chicago, recording your story is as simple as scheduling a time slot at a local StoryBooth. The StoryCorps MobileBooth is currently traveling across the MidWest, with month-long stops in St. Louis, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Dallas, Texas. The DIY Interview App allows anyone, anywhere to share a story on the Wall of Listening, which is a viable option for organizations whose support knows no geographic boundaries. Organizations with bigger budgets can hire StoryCorps to bring portable recording equipment to any location in the US, record up to six 40-minute interviews per day, add it to the StoryCorps collection in the Library of Congress, and provide a digital archive to the organization.

GlobalGiving is a charity fundraising website that helps social entrepreneurs and nonprofits all over the world raise money to improve their communities. They connect donors to innovative grassroots projects via an online directory, and they provide nonprofits with tools and training to help expand donor networks and connect to corporate giving campaigns. One of those tools is the Storytelling Form, developed for the GlobalGiving Story Project. It is designed to be filled out either by the individual telling the story, or by a scribe. The questions on the three-page form tease out the narrative of the story, emotions behind the story, issues it touches on, how often events like those described in the story happen, and the storyteller’s connection to the story, as well as timing, geography, and demographics.

Consumers Union is also building a story collection platform at It’s still in development, but the beta version is available to select nonprofits who fill out an online questionnaire. The platform is designed to allow nonprofits to create and publish a questionnaire within minutes, embed the questionnaire into your website and view story submissions in real time, and automatically gather contact information for storytellers. Once the stories are collected, you can tag and organize them into user-friendly, searchable collections that staff can edit, collaborate on and publish on your own marketing channels. The clever platform demonstration is presented in story form, following the narrative of the women’s suffrage movement.

Of course, there’s always the DIY route, in which you encourage people to share their stories on existing social media platforms. The “It Gets Better” Project was a DIY project that inspired thousands of people to tell their stories on YouTube, while hashtags such as #YesAllWomen and #WhyIStayed have encouraged women from all walks of life to share mini-vignettes of their personal experiences on twitter.

Anything you can do to make it easy for people to share their personal stories will go a long way toward building a library of stories that you can use to advance your cause.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Jakuza

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ReneeRenee Alexander is a LightBox collaborator and freelance storyteller whose most recent article, “The Rewards of the Road,” was published in Saveur magazine.