Lori L. Jacobwith is a master storyteller, speaker, trainer and author, and a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She has coached & trained thousands across North America to collectively raise $200 million from individual donors over the past decade.
I’ve been coaching and telling stories for more than 25 years. But when I ask a nonprofit staff person or board member to talk about the impact of their work I’m often met with a “deer in the headlights” look of fear.
And then the words start to tumble out: “Um, but, I don’t meet any of our clients.” “I don’t know any stories about our work.” “Uh, well, the program staff are the ones who know the people we serve but when I ask them to tell me stories they give me one line or they ignore me.”
If this sounds like YOU, read on.
The magic in finding stories is two-fold.
1. What questions you ask.
2. Who you ask questions.
First: What Questions You Ask:
If your program staff truly DOES have the only access to your clients and you want stories about the impact of your work, rather than asking for “stories” here are some other questions to ask staff, especially program staff:
• Who did you turn away last week? Tell me about one of those people or families.
• What person, family, child, senior, or fill-in-the-blank has stayed on your mind this week? What happened to cause them to come in to ask for our services? What are we doing to help them? What are we not able to do for them?
• What is your favorite thing about this person? Why do you want to help them?
• Is there anyone you’ve met lately who caused you to be incredibly proud that we exist? Tell me about them and how YOU have inadvertently or directly helped them.
Rather than asking staff, especially program staff for stories, ask them questions.
Help your team help you collect and share real-life examples of the people’s lives you are saving and changing. And then go share them with others.
Second: Who You Ask Questions
Asking your colleagues, especially the front line staff some of the questions listed here WILL help you capture more and better quality information for your story sharing.
When I worked at organizations where we provided a direct service I would make sure to put myself in a position at least once a month to be around those we served. I sat in the lobby area at the Department of Ophthalmology and visited with patients; I took the phone calls from parents whose children had just been diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes; I attended volunteer trainings.
I got out of my office and made sure to connect one-on-one with people to learn their story. Permission to share their stories is key… but once YOU have established a relationship with someone that permission is an easier process to navigate through.
I believe there are LOTS of other people to ask open-ended questions who have great examples of why your organization is doing amazing work.
In this one-hour webinar, I’ll teach you how to find great stories that will help you raise more money than you imagined. The most powerful way to connect people to your mission is by telling a story that causes the listener to feel something about the work of your organization. You already have these stories—you just have to know where to look for them.