Your Story Matters: Work To Tell It Well
In a previous post, Charitable Words explored fast pitches, three-minute opportunities to get your message across to a panel of judges for monetary prizes — and an audience of potential supporters and funders even if your organization does not emerge a winner or finalist.
Charitable Words introduced you to Lori Jacobwith, a Minneapolis-based fundraising coach who has provided training and coaching for thousands of organizations and their boards nationwide.
If you found value in her words and resources, here’s a suggested training session your organization can conduct internally in an hour and a half or so, with modest preparation:
The training certainly would help you prepare for a “fast pitch” type event. But if that’s not on your agenda, the workshop would help you hone that “elevator speech” you need to get your story across quickly. We did that recently with Social Venture Partners Cincinnati (pictured above) and while we made progress there’s much work to be done. The story never ends, never rests, changes always. The Story needs nurturing and constant attention and reformation. Words matter, and often the fewer the better.
Next time you sit down to write a grant proposal, next time someone asks what you do, remember this is a time-starved and attention-deficited world. Recall Mark Twain’s words: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
Get to the point, concisely and with conviction. That takes work. Here’s a Charitable Words suggestion for an internal workshop: Get your board, staff, volunteers together and work out the fast pitch you would envision for your cause. Have teams ask questions of the presenter similar to what you’d expect at a cocktail party, in an elevator, on stage. Prepare your pitch. Pitch it to yourselves. Pretend you know nothing about you and ask questions your audience may be thinking of but not have time to ask. Listen to what you hear.
Prior to the workshop, here are homework assignments:
- Check out Lori’s free resources link. Specifically, review this powerpoint on storytelling.
- View this video of a good example of storytelling at an Arizona Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch event.
- Start your training workshop with an overview and discussion of what all have taken away from the homework. Keep in mind Lori’s mantra: “No stories without numbers, no numbers without stories.” Think benchmarks. Think outcomes. And use stories about people.
- In a group discussion, identify your story – the personal anecdote, overview of the program, measured outcomes and close with how your listener can help/get involved. Have a note taker write it.
Take a break.
- Reconvene and think as if you were hearing the story without any knowledge of the organization and its mission. (The New York World editors used an expression, “Tell it to Sweeney,” meaning write for the readers, not reporters and editors).
- With that mindset, attack the story! Prosecute it. Fear not for feelings. It’s nothing personal, remember. This is important work for the (kids, homeless, sick, your cause). Review for jargon, long words and circle key words that would evoke empathy and interest.
You may need another break. That was brutal. (Insert tiny violins for reporters everywhere).
- Break into pairs, with each person telling the story in their own words and critiquing (in a nice way this time) one another’s stories. What worked, what could be added or trimmed?
- Each tell your story to the group, if willing and time permits.
Give it a try. You have nothing to lose but a couple hours of time with friends who believe in what you believe in. And please share your story and experience with Charitable Words. We’d love to showcase your success in a future posting.
(And, if you want someone to sit in on the session or help plan it, I’d love to help in any way. No charge, just cafe and perhaps a donut. I am not interested in that consulting work thing, not at this time. Just helping friends with common passions and core values…just want to do my small part to spread the Charitable Words).
– Tom Callinan
This entry was posted on Monday, October 29th, 2012 at 2:39 am
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