Collecting stories is a constant challenge for many nonprofit professionals. You know your organization is doing amazing work, but if you work in fundraising or communications, chances are you’re one step removed from program work. This means that you do not have direct access to the stories you most want to share with donors.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? It’s certainly been an issue for me at various points in my career.
You might be wondering what you can do to change this situation.
In today’s blog post, you will learn about the value of creating a personalized process for collecting stories, as well as how to develop a process that works for your nonprofit organization.
Why do you need a process?
Creating a process for something is probably one of the least sexy parts of our jobs. Who really wants to spend time developing a process and then documenting it for organizational use?
Early on in my career, I didn’t see the value of developing and using processes for certain tasks. But soon I faced problems. I couldn’t replicate the process for efficiently completing certain tasks, nor could I delegate those tasks to others. In other words, when you want to scale your work or get others involved, it becomes considerably more difficult to add them into the mix.
This is where a good process can make your work a lot easier. Take storytelling, for example. Collecting stories is likely not a task that you do entirely on your own, and there are probably multiple steps involved. Now, if you were to have those steps concretely defined and have created tools to simplify the steps, collecting stories could be a much easier task as a result of your clearly defined process.
Creating your custom process for collecting stories
Whether or not you already have a defined process for collecting stories, I want to offer a few pointers to either kick-start this project or refine what you’ve already created.
Step #1—Write out your current process. The best way to write out your process is to actually perform each step and write it down as you go. For instance, maybe your first step is to email certain people and then make a follow-up call if they don’t respond within a week. Write down each thing you do.
Step #2—Decide which parts of the process are not working for you. Once you have written each step down, read through the process and put a star by any step that is currently difficult or not working well. Basically, mark any place you find yourself getting stuck.
Step #3—Troubleshoot. After identifying the sticky spots, your task is to find ways to troubleshoot that portion of the process. If other colleagues are involved, get their feedback and see if you can find an alternative solution. For example, let’s say staff members do not reply to your emails requesting stories. When asked, they say email is not the best way to reach them. Instead, you could 1) attend their program meetings, or 2) set recurring coffee dates to chat with them.
Step #4—Create tools and templates. Once you have smoothed out your process, review it one more time to identify where you could create tools or templates for yourself. The purpose of doing this is to avoid having to do the same work twice. For instance, if you ask certain questions to clients in certain programs, think about creating a standard questionnaire so you can remember the questions each time.
Step #5—Continue to review and refine. As with any process, it is beneficial to review and refine it from time to time. I like to review my story gathering process twice a year.
These are the five steps you can take to develop a better process for collecting stories for your organization. Whether you have a process in place already or are just getting started, I hope these steps provide you with some fresh inspiration.