Storytelling in Volunteer Programs
Storytelling has the capacity to inspire, to evoke emotion, communicate ideas and to create a connection. Through the use of storytelling Volunteer Managers can promote a volunteer program, identify program improvements, influence and inspire action.
Why Storytelling is Powerful
According to Cognitive Psychologist Jerome Bruner, data is 22 times more likely to be remembered when it has been presented in a story. Additionally, a good story has the capability to create emotion in the reader causing them to connect with the story’s character. The storyteller can trigger a human connection with the reader by sharing details about the stories character, what they were doing and the impact the events in the story had on them.
Furthermore; a story can activate regions of the brain which remain inactivated merely by sharing facts. A particularly emotional story can also create Oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’) which is shown to increase compassion and trust.
Benefits of Storytelling in Volunteer Programs
We can benefit from storytelling as it can:
- Demonstrate the impact the volunteer program has on its recipients;
- Increase engagement with volunteers, staff, members of the public and donors;
- Promote the volunteer program to support the recruitment and engagement of volunteers;
- Recognise the volunteers and their contribution to the organisation;
- Gain valuable insight into the volunteers experiences from which informed decisions can be made;
- Raise the profile of the volunteers and the work they do in the community;
- Increase the chances of volunteers remembering processes;
- Humanise the role of the volunteer and the organisation which can strengthen the organisations brand, create marketing opportunities and attract donations.
How to Find Volunteer Stories
Everyone has a story to tell. Listening to the stories of your volunteers will offer the best insight into their experiences. Storytelling can be a powerful vehicle for continuous improvement, engagement and shared understanding. Opportunities for you to discover stories can include volunteer surveys, focus groups, post shift feedback and interviewing volunteers for annual reports and websites.
There are many way we can seek our volunteer’s stories; however a simple authentic conversation often remains the best approach. Some questions to consider asking your volunteers include:
- What was the highlight of your volunteering today?
- Which aspects of your volunteering brings you the most joy and why?
- What have you learnt during your time volunteering with us?
- What impact has volunteering had on your life?
Do you use storytelling in your volunteer program? Please share your experiences and the questions you ask your volunteers.