This is a guest post by Heather Dauphiny.
[Writer’s Note: It wasn’t until this year’s Nonprofit Storytelling Conference last week that I honestly felt like a fundraiser, even though I’m not a development officer of any kind. And the reason I believe I am a fundraiser now is simple: stories. I left corporate world for the not-for-profit world because I wanted to help people – I was moved by stories of hope and healing that not-for-profit organizations offer to the people they serve. Thank you to all of the speakers and people I met at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. It was life-changing and career-changing.]
We are all fundraisers. And fundraisers are storytellers.
Fundraisers have to be storytellers because they are the voice for the voiceless. They are the ones who represent the thousands of people and families that the organization serves each and every day.
If you can’t tell an effective, emotive story, how are you going to inspire donors to give in support of the mission?
By becoming a strong storyteller, you will become an even better fundraiser.
But first, you need to believe that you are a fundraiser.
If you work for an organization that raises money for a specific cause, you are a fundraiser. Whether you are on the front lines talking with prospective donors, or you support the financial and back-end systems, or you work with volunteers, you are a fundraiser. And you are someone who has a story to tell.
You are a representative of your organization, whether you’re on the clock or not. Relationships are critical to successful fundraising. You never know who you may be talking to – a friend, a family member, someone behind you at the grocery store – who may be interested in learning more about your organization or supporting your cause. Therefore, you are a fundraiser any time you talk about your organization.
But do you know how to talk about your organization? Can you tell your organization’s story?
Before you can tell your organization’s story, you must first be able to tell your own story. Why are you working for your organization? What brought you to this point in your life? Your organization’s story is part of your story and vice versa.
So, even as someone who may not be actively soliciting donors, you are still indirectly the face of your organization, and it’s important for you to be able to tell the stories of those you serve. Why is it the work you organization does important? How can people help? Why should anyone care?
You may be asking yourself, “What are my organization’s stories?” It’s really not hard to figure out, but it is much different than simply talking about your organization. It’s more than the basic facts and figures about your organization.
The stories come straight from the people you serve and from the people who put the money to use to make an impact in the community. Your stories come from volunteers. And they even come from your donors. Your donors are the heroes. They make your organization’s work possible.
With an arsenal of stories about your organization, you will begin believing that you are a fundraiser, too. If you can confidently and effectively talk about what your organization does through meaningful stories, you will develop a deeper connection with your organization’s mission and be able to illustrate the importance of your cause to others.
Start collecting those stories. But don’t be a story hog. Share the wealth. Share the stories with people in your organization so they, too, can connect more with the mission and better tell others about the work your teams do and why your cause matters.
Understanding the personal impact your organization has and putting a face and story with it brings you closer to the work you are a part of.
We are all storytellers. We have been since the beginning of time. So why not incorporate that into talking about yourself and your organization’s work? We are all fundraisers for the causes we care most about.
All it starts with is a story.
Heather Dauphiny is the Digital Media and Philanthropy Manager for the Orlando Health Foundation/Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation. She is responsible for the overall mass communication strategy for the Foundation. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree from Purdue University and enjoys spending time with her family, reading, drawing, and learning.