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Writing User Stories - Explaining Nonprofit Technology

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When describing the technology solutions we need, it’s natural to feel like we need to “talk tech”, or describe our needs through the lens of technology.

Instead, we recommend “thinking in stories” -- user stories.

HubSpot Video


User stories are told from the perspective of a project stakeholder -- any individual or group that affects or is affected by the outcome of the project.

Sometimes the main project stakeholder may be you.

Here is the format for writing a user story:

As <a stakeholder>,

I want <to perform this task>

so that I can <accomplish this goal>.

Instead of: “how can I use a given technology or feature to solve my problem,” a user story describes the problem that you need to solve. And why.

They are written in informal, simple, natural language (not technical jargon).

User stories answer the basic questions: WHO, WHAT, WHY

Here are some examples:

As an Grants Manager

I want to share documents with outside grantees

So that I can collaborate with them effectively and securely

As a Finance Manager

I need to see invoice submissions by date and amount

So that I can prioritize client follow-ups

User stories can also be told from the perspective of a constituent:

As Program Applicant

I want to save my application in draft form

So that I can edit and make corrections before submitting it

As a website visitor

I want to choose how I filter content

So that I can easily find the materials I need.

There is no set number of user stories to create. Some projects require just a few while complex software projects may have hundreds.

The benefit is that user stories keep the focus on technology solving problems for people.


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