• David Oaks

Stories: The Currency Nonprofit Leaders Collect To Pay Their Donors


The most successful communicator in history "was never without a story when he spoke." Jesus of Nazareth knew that story is the currency of history. Is there a connection between being THE most successful and oft-quoted communicator in history and his commitment to being a great story-teller? Uhmmm... YES!! Jesus, the master communicator, knew something that leaders (non and for-profit) ought to know. When asked why he focused on storytelling, Jesus gave a lesson that nonprofit leaders can learn a lot from... "…I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward a welcome awakening."

  • To create readiness

  • To nudge people forward

Selah. Pause. Think about this. Stories are the tools nonprofit leaders use to create a readiness in people to support their mission! STORY IS THE CURRENCY OF HISTORY Stories have always been the major vehicle for communicating values, culture, and history. It was true when our ancestors huddled in caves around campfires. It is true today. Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggested that wrapping the "facts" about your nonprofit with stories makes your message twenty-two times more memorable. Communication expert Jim Lukaszewski says, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a good story is worth 10,000 pictures. Leaders of successful political campaigns understand the power of stories. Conference keynote speakers understand the power of stories. Wall Street titans understand the power of stories. Best-selling authors understand the power of stories. Great marketers leverage the power of stories. Great leaders focus on, harness, and utilize the power of stories. We hunger for information told in story form. It's evident when children say, "Tell me a story." It is evident when an adult asks, "What's the story?" Stories are the currency nonprofit leaders collect to pay their donors for their gifts! IF YOU ARE NOT COLLECTING AND TELLING STORIES ABOUT THE IMPACT OF YOUR MISSION: DONORS WILL NOT ENJOY GIVING YOU MAJOR GIFTS. Great stories create a readiness in donors to give to your cause. Great stories nudge people forward in their decision-making. Facts stay lodged in the mind. They don't speak at the dimension that we need to hear. But, stories speak to the heart. Successful nonprofit leaders collect and use stories to:

  • Create a readiness in potential donors to give gifts

  • Create a readiness in current donors to give larger gifts

  • Nudge potential donors toward supporting your mission

  • Nudge current donors toward larger gifts

SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR USING STORIES:

  1. Tell your story

My friend Mike Kim has taught me that if content is king, then context is the kingdom. What he means is that your story matters. It is your story that makes the content of your communication and interactions powerful. Some great places to make sure your story is told:



“In 2005, having experienced the devastation and effects of alcoholism, addiction and abuse personally and in their own family, Rick and Sharon Wagner began to help others to find hope and freedom. In a bold move that, at the time, just felt like the right thing to do, the Wagners moved out of their home and into a hotel in order to give five women in recovery their home. They gave the first financial donations, Teen Challenge donated the curriculum and House of Hope was born!” The Wagner’s story (context) gives power to their content!




“My name is Monica Prestridge. At four years old I lost my left leg below the knee in a lawnmower accident. I lived my life unconnected, HIDDEN, and without resources up into my thirties. A few years ago I connected with another amputee. It sparked life inside of me. I felt connected. I felt seen and valued. I came alive. Since that time, I have given my life to find more connection. I began to attend amputee events where I met a whole world of others like me. I began to experience power in community. I began to stop looking at my disability as a setback or hindrance and began to see it as an opportunity to serve and give back to others. With the help of others, I founded Life Unlimbited, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing community, awareness and resources to the amputee community. I can't wait to meet and experience you!” Monica’s story (context) gives power to her content. 2. The founder's story. How did your nonprofit get started? What is the story behind your mission? Is your founder's story told somewhere? This story gives power to everything your nonprofit does. 3. Transformation stories

  • Constituent stories of life change

  • Donor stories

  • Legacy donor stories

  • Volunteer stories

Every nonprofit leader should be telling stories about:

  • Me

  • My mission

  • The people I am touching

Stop telling your donors what your staff is doing…TELL THEM STORIES ABOUT THE IMPACT YOUR STAFF BROUGHT TO SOME PERSON YOU SERVE. Stop telling your donors what you are doing…TELL THEM STORIES OF LIVES BEING CHANGED BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Stop telling your donors statistics of how many lives you are impacting and instead TELL THE STORY OF ONE PERSON WHOSE LIFE IS CHANGED BECAUSE OF YOUR MISSION. One of the first things I get my clients to do is to collect and start telling stories about impact. Do it well and trust me, the dollars will roll in. Think about your next appeal. Will it tell stories or statistics? What about your next presentation, will it tell the stories of the life-change your organization brings? What about your website's landing page? Does it bring your potential donor into the power of a story? What about the "about us" page on your website? Is it all about your degrees and accomplishments OR does it harness the power of a story that pulls people in? What about your next staff meeting? How will the power of story be maximized? How are you maximizing the power of story? Raising more money means telling more and better stories. The better you become at turning your statistics into stories, the more the world will listen. To help you see the power of story in action, I have prepared two special free downloads. #1: FREE DOWNLOAD: STORY BASED NEWSLETTER EXAMPLE #2: FOUR STORIES THAT WILL RAISE MORE MONEY IN YOUR NEXT NEWSLETTER Begin to harness the power of story! Get these FREE downloads now!

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