Along my career, I have had the chance to work, both, as a fundraiser and then as a board member. It’s been interesting to see both sides of the conversation about board fundraising. Having had a seat at the board table and now being a board chair, allows me to understand how a board member might feel when they’re asked to fundraise.
I have worked on countless fundraising initiatives with board members and there’s one thing that I often underestimate them needing – a ton of direction.
Really, the more direction and support you can give board members the better.
As you might know from your fundraising work, a good amount of fundraising is really about communications and storytelling. Telling stories are often part of the cultivation process.
Nonprofit storytelling for board members is fundamental to a great fundraising campaign.
For this reason, I want to share with you 3 impactful types of stories that your board members can share to support any fundraising campaign.
- · A PERSONAL STORY
- · AN IMPACT STORY
- · THE FOUNDING STORY
WHY IS STORYTELLING FOR NONPROFIT BOARD MEMBERS IMPORTANT?
Storytelling is a fundamental means of connection and builds relationships between the nonprofit organization and its stakeholders. However, storytelling goes beyond just sharing the stories of those who are benefited.
Storytelling needs to be present throughout all the aspects of your organization. Invite your community to share their stories and take part in the organization’s narrative. Take Charity: Water as an example.
In order to have a strong storytelling culture within your nonprofit organization, then you need to encourage your board members to get involved.
Motivate your nonprofit board members to become storytellers themselves. Do they think it is complicated? Luckily they have you to help them out.
- Blog recommended: What it really takes to engage board members in fundraising.
A PERSONAL STORY
Every board member has a story as to why they chose to join the board. Their personal testimonial is a powerful (and much more interesting) way to answer the question, “So what do you do?” If your board members attend community events as ambassadors, this is the story they should tell when introducing themselves and networking.
A personal story should be comprised of three elements:
- A calling
- The solution
- The outcome
I think the calling is most important because it tells people about the values and beliefs that were at play when a decision was made.
The storytelling from nonprofit board members helps stakeholders to empathize with the board member’s motivations and feelings. A more human side of the organization shows up.
The video below is a Tedx Talk hosted by Diébédo Francis Kéré, an architect & Founder of the Kéré Foundation. Kéré tells us his own personal story of how he grew up in a village in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world according to the World Bank.
After getting the chance to study architecture in Germany, he had always dreamed of going back to his village and building sustainable buildings for their community. We can see the three elements mentioned before along his narrative.
AN IMPACT STORY
Impact stories are all around us at non-profits, but since board members can be somewhat removed from the day-to-day operations, we have to find ways to reconnect them with the impact. This might mean that you invited a staff member to attend the board meeting and share an impact story during the first few minutes. It might also mean that every quarter, you give them new story talking points on a business card-sized piece of paper.
Make sure that you are regularly giving board members new stories to tell and if it’s available, some talking points to help them remember what to say. I suggest this because I often hear board members say, “I don’t know what to say.” This will solve that problem.
An impact story is a great thing to have up your sleeve for donor meetings.
In the following example, you can see how Jane Goodall, the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, tells a personal story by telling the story of Wounda.
Wounda is the story of one of the chimpanzees at her rescue center. Even though we can see Wounda as the main character in the story, we can also hear Jane’s personal story. The special encounter between both characters bring the story to life. Jane narrates also the positive impact that the Jane Goodall Centre has had over these rescued chimpanzees’ lives.
THE FOUNDING STORY
I like to suggest that board members know the founding story because sometimes when they are talking to people about the non-profit, some people will want to know how the organization got started. Every organization got its start somewhere and that is a story worth knowing.
None of these stories have to be particularly long. In fact, it’s ideal if a board member can deliver the story in 2 minutes or less. This is a great activity that you can try at your next board meeting. Pick a story and ask 2 or 3 people to share their version of it. This a great way to provide a little feedback and give other board members inspiration for their storytelling.As an example, you can see below the TEDx Talk presented by Daniel Flynn, the founder of the social water bottled enterprise called Thank You Water. In the talk, Daniel tells us about his motivation to start this project and then tells us the story about the organization’s origin.
Here are some questions your nonprofit board member can use to tell the story:
- What was the initial motivation to create the organization?
- What were the first steps that needed to be taken?
- How many members started out the project?
- How did you create the nonprofit organization?
- Tell us some anecdotes!
EXTRA RESOURCES FOR NONPROFIT STORYTELLING
Still looking for more tools to make your board members’ storytelling a great success?
Let me share with you some useful articles I wrote:
- 9 Sources of Inspiration for Nonprofit Storytelling
- How to Create a Culture of Storytelling
- How to Turn Passionate Staff Fundraisers and Board Members into Fundraisers
I hope this article helps you to better understand the importance of your nonprofit board members’ storytelling. And that the tips that I have shared with you can help your board to share their best engaging stories.
Remember that a personal story can create resonance with those who listen.
Your cause is worthy of all the donations you can imagine.
Ryan MacIntyre says
As usual, great advice!
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
The founding story is good, and I’d really be interested in hearing a board member’s personal story as well. Some board members don’t know how to talk about this effectively-even leading with a question before launching into the story can be helpful, like, “What causes do you care about?” Then, “Here’s one I care about- and here’s why”
What do you think? 🙂
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
I’m really glad that you mentioned that, Mazarine! Thanks for for the suggestion.