by Marlie Whittle
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
– Dalai Lama
Fundraising is about creating or strengthening the relationship between a person and the mission of an organization. This connection is created when the people closest to the cause, volunteers, staff, board members, those who receive the services or the donors, share their passion for the organization with excitement (or urgency) and authenticity.
The gift of telling stories can be cultivated and learned. We all have stories to tell. Some people naturally captivate an audience, engaging the listener with every minor detail, but most people need a bit of encouragement and guidance.
I found two simple but effective exercises in Bobette Buster’s book, Do Story – How to tell your story so the world listens, that will help develop your storytelling talents.
In the first exercise, Bobette challenges her readers to tell a story about a cause that they care deeply about. She offers that the storyteller should be careful not to rant or lecture. Instead they are encouraged to:
“Share your idea as a possibility to consider; come up with a gleaming detail, an image; hand over the spark – relay a small scenario that explains your passion. Most importantly, how has this changed you? Why do you care so much?”
In the second exercise, Bobette wants her reader to share a passion of theirs, and their reason behind that passion. To get to the root of why you love this thing, she offers the following questions:
“What is it that you love? What is it about you that you are revealing? When did you first ‘fall in love’ with this passion? What specifically captured your attention, altered your life course forever? How has this passion changed your life? Where has it led you? Be specific: give a small example, an action moment. What sense memory do you recall that relates to the event? How would you describe this passion to someone who has never experienced it or has no knowledge of it?”
She reminds the reader to “tell your story with a smile.”
Once you have thought of a perfect story to embody the mission of the organization and why it means so much to you personally, think about your audience and what they may find interesting. Depending on who you are speaking to, you may know your audience very well or have never met them. The context and environment in which you are meeting a potential donor should provide clues as to what sort of language to use in your story. The key to conveying your passion is authenticity but language is always an important consideration: use language that the audience will understand and connect with.
Human beings share their experience of the world through stories. Our most miraculous accomplishments and most devastating disasters have been told and re-told throughout the ages in a tradition that helps us understand where we come from. To be part of this tradition is human, so speak up, share your story and make a difference.