by Marlie Whittle

We have all said it: “I’m just one person, what difference can I make?” There are two things that I would like you to consider next time you are inclined to utter some version of that sentence. First, if you don’t try, someone else will. Second, if you do try, you won’t be alone for long.

In the sessions I attended at Toronto’s Association of Fundraising Professionals Congress 2017 recently, I noticed that many of the presenters touched on the importance of stories for illustrating the passion and perseverance of the people involved with the organization. Stories bring a charity to life by connecting the stakeholders, volunteers, clients, staff, fundraisers and board members in a common purpose. Each person in the organization has a reason for being involved. Unfortunately, too often we get so caught up in the work that we can easily forget why we got involved in the first place.

Fundraising is more about securing relationships than securing gifts. In fact, the time taken to plan, build relationships, tell the stories and cultivate a culture of philanthropy within an organization is more valuable in the long run than the monetary outcome of an annual appeal or one fundraising campaign.

Most people who work at, volunteer for, or receive help from a charity do not see themselves as fundraisers. Fundraisers can often sense anxiety when they enter an organization, purely because people are uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money. The irony is, fundraisers spend a very small percentage of their time talking about money. We really want to hear from our clients or colleagues about the stories that make them unique and that make them so dedicated to the cause.

People are the fundamental component of any charity. You might be fighting to save a river, a rhino or church roof, but ultimately people create the message and infuse this message with a passion that inspires others to get involved.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Dalai Lama

I hope you are starting to feel more comfortable about fundraising because you are a critical piece of the puzzle. Whether you give your time or your money, you have a connection with an organization; you have a reason for doing what you do. Fundraising is simply about sharing that reason with your personal network and inspiring people to get involved.

In Part 2, we will explore your passion for a particular cause with a guideline for crafting your own story. Once you have this in your pocket, you will be surprised to see the big difference that one small story can make.

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