Last week I had a reader email me the following question:
“I work for a United Way. While our organization funds great work, we don’t always have first-hand access to the work that we support. That means we don’t have stories to share with our donors. How can we work with our grantees to collect stories?”
Considering that there are numerous United Ways out there, this must be more than just an isolated problem this reader is experiencing. Today, I’m going to share my tips for United Ways who are trying to collect more stories.
I would also add that these tips apply to any sort of funding entity, like foundations, which are supporting work but are not doing the program delivery.
Tip #1: Why and Where Would You Use Stories
As I’ve discussed in past blog posts, one of the biggest barriers to storytelling is that people lack direction. When they don’t feel that there are clearly defined parameters for what you are asking, it becomes much more difficult for them to deliver a story. First, you need to do the heavy lifting of determining what stories you need. Think about where you’ll be sharing the stories (online, offline, video, text, etc.) and what your goal is for sharing the story.
Once you go through the exercise of defining this, you’ll be in a much better place to give your grantees very clear direction on storytelling.
Tip #2: Provide Your Grantees With Storytelling Training & Support
Providing your grantees with the training and support they need for storytelling will have benefits that far exceed your purposes. I would argue that this is one of the best things a United Way or foundation could do for their funding community. Once that organization begins to tell more stories, they will gain more traction in the community and more people will recognize their name and their work. The end result of this could be significant strides taken towards solving an important problem.
The training does not have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a 1-hour in-person meeting or even a webinar. Tell your grantees about the basics of storytelling: what is it, what makes a good story, why stories matter. Then give them examples of some good and bad stories, and brainstorm what opportunities they may have for storytelling.
Tip #3: Include Storytelling in Your Grantee Reports
If you want to proactively collect stories, build this into your relationship with grantees. You probably have funding reports or some kind of accountability piece that grantees have to fill out and submit to you. This is the perfect opportunity to ask them a couple of questions that they can answer anecdotally with a story.
Now, what happens if you get the report and you find that the stories aren’t what you need? You can set up a follow up phone call with the grantee to ask additional questions about the story. Think of this as an interview where you are trying to discern the full story.
Alternatively, you can write a story with what they’ve given you. Then ask the grantee for edits and approval of the story that you wrote.
There you have it – three simple tips for working with United Way grantees to collect and share stories.
Do you have a question about storytelling or story collecting? Leave a comment below and I’ll answer it in an upcoming blog post.