One day, when Genevieve Piturro was volunteering at a shelter for homeless children in New York City, she decided to bring 12 pairs of pajamas to help the kids get ready for bed.

When she arrived, she was in for a surprise. Some children didn’t actually know what pajamas were, because they had always just slept in their clothes.

Genevieve decided to do something about that.

In 2001, she founded The Pajama Program, an organization that works to give new pajamas—and books—to children in shelters, group homes, and other places where there’s a need.

That story defines The Pajama Program’s mission today and sets the organization apart from other nonprofits.

In fact, the story was so compelling that, in 2010, Genevieve was invited on the Oprah Winfrey Show to tell it.

The power of a story

In Seth Godin’s book, “All Marketers Are Liars,” the words “are liars” are crossed out and replaced with “tell stories.”

Godin’s premise is that, in this day and age, traditional marketing is dead.

Gone are the days of blaring TV ads and full-scale newspaper advertisements. Now, every business and nonprofit needs to learn how to tell a compelling story that connects with customers and supporters.

It’s the story that allows you to stand out in the crowd and how you can continue to thrive, despite a competitive environment that’s noisier than ever before.

Finding your own story

Every organization has a story as unique as The Pajama Program. More than anything else, it’ that story that draws people to your store or supporters to your events… and keeps them coming back.

Your job is to figure out how to tell it.

Think about what makes customers come into your store, or supporters donate to your cause.

What makes you special? What are your core values? What makes you get out of bed every morning?

At Constant Contact, we believe relationships matter. This belief is the foundation of everything we do. It’s why we deliver professional, easy-to-use services, personal coaching and support, and education to help small businesses and nonprofits create and grow customer relationships.

A good story can unite everyone in the organization under a common cause and give a single vision for success.

Telling your story

Once you’ve figured out the story behind your organization, it’s time to think about how to tell it.

Storytelling comes in many forms. From the moment a customer steps through your door, she’s telling herself something about your business.

If your store has a distinctive lay-out, if your employees treat her a certain way, then you’ve told a story that, one way or another, is going to stick with her.

The key is consistency.

You can’t have a colorful, carefree store and then send email newsletters that are written in a cold, robotic language. Likewise, you can’t be a vegetarian-only restaurant and then post a picture of a hamburger on Facebook.

Consistency is one of your most powerful tools when you’re telling a story, because the more consistent you are, the further your message gets spread and the more your organization stands out.

Breaking through the noise

When customers and supporters can easily tell themselves a story about your organization, then it’s easier for them to become passionate about what you’re doing—especially when that story matches with their world view.

In turn, the story helps build relationships and create loyalty.

With the internet in everyone’s hands these days, it’s more important than ever to be recognized and remembered.

It’s also easier than ever to tell a story. Facebook, email marketing, and other online marketing tools make it possible to reach out to customers and supporters beyond your store.

So, once you do discover the story behind your organization, all you have to do is figure out how to tell it and, more importantly, how to get it heard.

How do you tell your organization’s story? Let us know below!