A key role of nonprofit leaders and board Chairs is to help volunteers uncover and amplify their stories.  As discussed in my previous blog, “Can Your Board Talk About Your Cause?” every board member has a story to share and once a comfort level exists with talking about personal connections to a cause, fundraising becomes easier and manifests successful results.

How might we enable storytelling?

Here are five “Once Upon a Time” tactics for equipping board members with memorable and genuine pitches. Try these suggestions at your next board meeting.

  1. Find your “rallying cry. ”Why are we involved with XYZ nonprofit? Why does the XYZ cause matter to us? There are only correct answers to this question. Each person has reasons for being involved that are personal.  At your next meeting allow five to ten minutes of writing time for individuals to answer these questions for themselves.

  2. Build in story-time. At some point in every meeting, provide a chance for board members to talk about why they care about the cause. This is especially important for new board members who need practice talking about your nonprofit. Break into small groups, pair up, or go around the table and let the sharing begin.

  3. Tell all. Executive Directors and Board Chairs are the most important storytellers.  They are constantly seeing and feeling the impact of the organization’s work.  Therefore, add an “Impact” section to the agenda. Ask a leader to talk about recent outcomes that demonstrate how the nonprofit is advancing its mission. This story should be easy to repeat so that board members can share it with their own networks.

  4. Add in some creative elements. Not every story is easy to tell or provides a natural and empathetic connection. And, admittedly, some people feel like they don’t have a story to tell. When this is the situation, Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story suggests we identify first what your audience of potential donors, do care about and then connect your ideas in through this back door. Or sometimes, qualitative data can be used to create emotional content. See his story elements checklist for more inspiration.

  5. Listen. Procuring funds is often not about your story but a potential donor’s story.  During events, encourage staff and board members to listen closely to what guests are saying. Ask attendees about why they are attending an event and or how they heard about XYZ nonprofit. Pay attention to new ideas and connections that might help formulate new stories about your cause.

Although it’s perhaps somewhat of a rarity to find a volunteer who enjoys asking for money, uncovering that individual’s own passion for a cause will increase confidence and comfort when it becomes their turn to ask for money. Of course, before a board member asks others for money, they need to have already made a donation themselves. Although we can’t dismiss the importance of understanding goals, programs and outcomes for consistent messaging, sharing one’s genuine passion will ultimately be the spark for igniting donations.