Has your organization ever had an outstanding volunteer? Have you shared their story?
Volunteers play a big and important role at many non-profit organizations. They contribute time, skills and expertise that can enhance the organization’s internal capacity. Plus, they have a big heart for the work the organization is doing.
In today’s “Learn From” feature, we get to meet Juliana Rodger the Fundraising and Development Coordinator at the Causeway Foundation. Juliana is sharing her experiences creating story about a volunteer.
A bit about the Causeway Foundation
Causeway helps people overcome complex employment barriers such as mental health issues, homelessness, lack of education and poverty. For those individuals who are struggling to find work and who don’t know where to start, Causeway can be the first step. They’ve been working in the Ottawa, Ontario region since 1977.
Hats for Healthy Heads – the story of 1 Woman, 2 Knitting Needles, $2,480 towards Programs for People with Mental Illness
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
On July 1st, Olympic medalist Clara Hughes pedaled the last kilometer of Clara’s Big Ride, her cross-Canada tour that brought the conversation about mental health to countless communities. Meanwhile, engineer and all-around do-gooder, Jen Ajersch, searched for a way to keep Clara’s message alive and make a difference of her own. Armed with an idea and a pair of knitting needles, Jen set to work designing Hats for Healthy Heads. Read the full story.
What lessons did you learn in developing this story?
What really struck me as I developed this story was the level of passion the volunteer featured in the story had for the mental health cause. It was important to me to capture her level of energy in the article, not only to pay tribute to the great work she is doing, but also to inspire innovative thinking in our donors and volunteers. As it turned out, this was easy to do by quoting the volunteer from her e-mail communications with Causeway. I let her speak for herself. I figured if I found her story interesting then others would too.
What advice would you like to share with your fellow non-profit storytellers?
Go to the source. I had pieced the story together from various e-mails I had been forwarded, or copied on, but I found that I got a much fuller story (not to mention more pictures to accompany it) once I contacted the volunteer directly.
Something else I would advise is to really think about what the purpose of telling the story is. Sure, it’s nice to share successes. But, especially when you’re in a donor-dependent organization, the story you are telling should always be trying to make the reader think, “What could I do to help?” In this particular story, one of the main points I wanted to get across is why people would choose to donate to Causeway. I was able to do this more organically by using direct quotations.
Here’s another except from the story that Juliana wrote:
Jen was unsure, at first, where the money raised would be of best use. She wanted it to go to a small, community organization where the donation would have the greatest impact. Joan Blanchard told Jen about Causeway.
“We love the work they do,” says Joan. “There isn’t a huge bureaucracy. The money goes straight to the community.”
Upon learning more about Causeway, Jen became an enthusiastic supporter. “You help people transform their lives by ‘teaching them to fish’ and providing some opportunities to enter the workforce,” she says. “Your work makes a long term and lasting difference to people with mental health issues. I believe that people feel better when they are productive and independent. I say this because I have lived it myself.”
Juliana – thank you so much for sharing insights from your work! I hope that your own story about storytelling inspires others to get out in the trenches to find great stories.
Does your non-profit have a story that you would like to have featured on our blog? You can submit yours here.