The Art of Storytelling

This past weekend at a fundraiser, I watched a young man get up and talk about the impact the organization had made on his sister, who had passed away from a terminal illness.  He talked about how, just for a little while, each time the volunteers came to their house, she could forget about being sick and just be a teenage girl again.  He asked us all to think about a life where we couldn’t leave the house, where all the normal day-to-day things we do and take for granted, were now out of reach.  He then asked everyone in the audience to make a donation before they left. I thought about my active life and how devastated I would be if that changed.  It wasn’t hard to make a donation to this organization after that, and I watched as many other people also pulled out their phones and wallets to make donations.

We all have stories like that.  Stories that move you, bring you to tears, and inspire your donors to donate to your organization.  Unfortunately as staff and volunteers of non-profits so many times we get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae that we forget about these amazing stories and the incredible impact we have.  Then when we do meet with donors, we start to talk about our programs and statistics, telling them HOW we do it, instead of telling them WHY we do it.

There is always that a-ha moment at board meetings, that story being told that makes everyone light up and say “YES!  This is why I am here!”  It doesn’t have to be a big success story.  Sometimes the small stories are the most impactful.  Ask board members to share a story of the first time they came to the organization – was it because of a tour they took?  A client they met who shared how their life changed?  Maybe you’re an animal rescue and they saw a young child’s face light up with excitement at bringing home a new four-legged sibling.  Whatever the story is, don’t be afraid to share it.  Take a few minutes at each meeting and ask a couple people to share their stories.

Donors love to hear about how their donations are making life better for others. That’s why they give.  It’s not that they don’t want to hear about the 17 programs the organization offers, and the 3 buildings you have and the 6 new programs coming in the next year.  They want to hear that because of your organization, an adult who had been struggling on the streets was able to land a job for the first time in years, or that a child struggling with grief has finally learned how to talk about it and is starting to heal, all thanks to your hard work.

We joke around that nobody goes into non-profit work to become rich, but that we go into it for the love of the organization and the chance to help make things better, whatever that is.  That passion for our work is what we should convey to the donors, and there is nothing more powerful than the stories we can tell.

–Courtney Rheuban

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.