A few months ago, I attended “Meet the Funders” conference hosted by the Maine Philanthropy Center. The highlight for me was the keynote address by Andy Goodman on storytelling. If you ever are able to hear him speak, I highly recommend it!
He persuasively explained the importance of storytelling. Studies have shown our retention of information is remarkably better if the facts are presented in story form. It’s practically something in our DNA as human beings. Evidently, some anthropologists have even defined us as the primates that tell stories!
Think about it from your own experience. If someone is unexpectedly late to a meeting with you, what’s your automatic reaction? 9 times out of 10, you start creating a story for why they’re late!
Nonprofits are notoriously bad at telling their story. And story telling is an extremely important part of fundraising! (If you don’t believe me, look back to this post.)
One of things Andy highly recommended nonprofits do is identify their “core stories” and make sure every staff and board member knows them. Here are six areas he suggests for core stories:
- The Nature of Our Challenge Story: this describes “what we’re up against” or “what’s gone wrong”
- The Creation Story: this tells “how we go started”
- The Emblematic Success Story: is actually a collection of stories that tells of times you’ve “won” in ways that are uniquely you.
- The Performance Stories: these are stories celebrating how your people go above and beyond the call of duty
- The Striving to Improve Stories: stories about how you’ve tried something new and totally crashed-and-burned and what you’ve learned–these stories make risk taking safer
- The Where We’re Going Story: what is it you’re creating; Kennedy’s “We will go to the moon and back within this decade” gave NASA a story–they seem to be struggling to find one for years now
Andy pointed out that if you don’t tell your stories, people will tell stories about you.
So how about you? Can you easily rattle of the stories specific to your organization? If not, why not?
After his talk, I walked up to him and asked him if the stories could be about an organization or if they should be about people. He said, “The hero has to be a person or people.”
As you’re collecting your organization’s stories, don’t fall into the trap of making your organization the hero. Celebrate the people–the founders, the employees, the volunteers, the donors, the parents, the children–that took the initiative and created these stories!
For more help on telling stories for fundraising, check out the on-demand trainings at The Nonprofit Academy at https://thenonprofitacademy.com/vault/#marketing-communications. Or consider attending the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference.