How to write a bio for your nonprofit’s About section

Do you need to write a bio – or several bios – for your nonprofit organization? Do you know how to write a bio?

Many nonprofits feature short bios of important team members in the About section of their websites. Depending on the structure and size of your organization, you might be writing bios for your:

  • Executive team
  • Staff team
  • Board of Directors
  • Ambassadors
  • Committee members
  • Other?

A bio can – and should – be more than just a presentation of credentials and accomplishments. Well-written bios can inspire readers and add a human element to your website’s About section.

Do you need help showcasing your nonprofit’s amazing people? I’ve pulled together a step-by-step process to give your bio writing a little boost. (You can also click here to download it as a PDF mini-guide).

Here’s how to write a bio, broken down into five steps:

Step 1: Gather the facts

Gather all of the pertinent facts about your subject. Collect anything that supports a well-rounded description of the person in question. Look for:

  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • A list of personal accomplishments
  • A summary of degrees, courses and workshops
  • Volunteer activities
  • Influences/mentors
  • Professional certifications
  • Media mentions
  • Publications
  • Professional associations, clubs, other groups
  • Old bios!

This is just the information-gathering stage. You won’t be trying to include it all or include anything verbatim. You’ll use only most important and most relevant pieces of information that bring together a story – more on that below.

Tip: You’re writing bios to present a human side of the organization, so include photos! While you’re gathering facts, give people notice that you’re going to need a photo.

Step 2: Send an email to pick up a personal perspective

Send a quick note to the person whose bio you are writing to glean some personal insights and perspective. Ask a couple of questions such as:

  • What attracted you to our cause? Our organization?
  • What keeps you here?
  • What inspires you?

Tip: If there are important elements that you weren’t able to round up in Step 1, take this opportunity to ask for the missing details.

Step 3: Determine the right style

Assuming that you’re going to publish the bio on your nonprofit organization’s website, your copy should be brief, readable and conversational. Your writing should also match your organization’s voice and tone, so refer to your messaging guidelines if you have them.

Now, consider the right style for this bio, complementing the individual’s role and how they would like to be perceived. For example:

  • An executive or board member bio will probably be somewhat formal, but perhaps also dynamic in tone.
  • A bio about a service or care provider should convey their expertise and approachability.
  • A bio about a volunteer ambassador should convey their passion and motivations.
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Step 4: Create a theme and story

It’s time to take all of the information you’ve gathered and look for an interesting theme or story to tell – preferably, both. Review your background materials and notes, with highlighter and pen in hand.

  • Look for a theme: Look for key words or phrases that add colour or interest. Sometimes an obvious theme will emerge from the facts, the individual’s language or the analogies they use.
  • Look for a story: Find a way to connect events and shape the chronology into a story. Brainstorming or mind mapping can be a big help with this. Make the story about what they ‘bring to’ rather than what they ‘do at’ the organization.

Step 5: Start writing

You’ve done the research and planning you need to write an interesting bio, so start writing! Keep these points in mind:

  • Include relevant credentials and accomplishments without overloading the reader.
  • Weave in your theme by including key words and analogies.
  • Make it personal – include a quote (or a short excerpt from a quote) from your subject that supports the story or theme that you’ve developed.
  • Keep it brief and within a consistent word count. I recommend 150–200 words, but this will depend on whether you are featuring each bio on a separate page, or keeping them all together on one.

Keep your bios up to date

Once your bios are complete, make a plan to keep them current. Don’t wait until someone arrives or leaves the organization; ensure that all existing bios stay fresh and accurate! Create a manageable schedule for updates – perhaps review and update one bio per month?

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