Wait…if the SNL skit came first then which one’s the parody?
Wait…if the SNL skit came first then which one’s the parody?
Storytelling has become a lost art among many modern nonprofits. Statistics now overshadow the drama, comedy and suspense in this sector and unfortunately, the few stories provided to audiences have been relegated to late night appeals that only function as guilt driven fundraisers rather than obtaining support through engagement and understanding.
The Heartstrings’ Connected to the Purse String
Those “pull on your heart strings” ads attempt to form a connection through gut reactions to horrible circumstances, however they rarely leave you informed to share more information than a brief description of a starving child or abused animal.
These “infomercials” are little more than nonprofit junk food designed for one purpose – drive donations. However they never truly accomplish the most elusive goal – creating advocate.
You may donate, you might feel like you contributed, maybe even made a difference and you might even tell a few people. This type of experience will live a box in your mind and rarely fuels further action or provide you with the tools for informed discourse.
Learning and Understanding
Think back to any learning experience in your life. Odds are it was not when you were fed information but rather when you felt a solid connection to a subject. You should have quite a few that stick with you because of the emotional bond to that memory.
Now cull those experiences to the few that impacted your current actions. Maybe it changed the direction of your career or awoke a passion that you never knew existed. Whatever happened, you were never the same person and you learned something about the world around you and how you fit into it.
What was the singular factor that made that experience stick with you for so long and not fade away into a one-time action?
Chances are it involved a story filled with character development, heroes and villains, images that did more than pass in front of you. These experiences welcomed you in to a new world, compelling you to engage with more than just your gut. This moment provided you with a framework where you understood your place in the world a bit more.
Enough with the Mushy Stuff
So now that you have this moment in your mind, you can appreciate what it took to engage you in a purpose. This is what you must now duplicate in your daily interactions with current and future supporters.
Too often, we feel comfortable throwing out statistics. We feel that when presented with the facts everyone will join our cause. That is seldom the case when building long-term support, the kind that will be there years down the road when you need it most…say during a recession.
It cannot be said enough that you care about your organization’s mission more than the average person walking down the street. Their day is filled with work, family, friends, gossip and a million tiny distractions. How will you break into that haze and be noticed?
Find Your Story
Many times it comes down to the story. Who have you helped? How did you help? What did you do that should be a banner headline on the newspaper or scrolling across a media site? Be honest, none of this “Well we just hired great new CEO…”
So here’s your homework: Think of a compelling story. Frame it in your mind. Ask yourself who would care about this story. Does it only work in your town, your city, or will it translate to other states, countries?
If it can bridge culture and language, you have a winner. Now write it down and share it.
A note: It is great if Saturday Night Live parodies your story as long as it’s not because they hate you…
Meetings slow productivity and frequently waste time and resources. How many times have you thought a meeting could be over in five minutes and not the hour set aside on your Outlook calendar? That the information could have been shared without a formal gathering? That your colleagues rely too much on PowerPoint or handouts that are skimmed and then filed once you are back at your desk, never to be viewed again until you dig them up for the inevitable follow up meeting?
Sure, meetings have evolved, usually in attempts to break down those dreaded silos – the scapegoats of any failed initiative. More people are scheduling shorter meetings. Some employers tout the space they have created for meetings. Just think of the dollars spent on meeting environments because people can’t discuss topics outside of a room filled with standing desks, beanbag chairs, and a wall covered in chalk board paint. Have we become so distracted that we need more than a pen and paper? Sure we need visual aids but certainly not in place of our own imaginations.
Inc. posted an article today that highlights “9 Dumb Ways to Ruin a Meeting.” The author, Jeff Haden, has some terrific points including getting out of the office. But many of these tips we know; we just fail to speak up, walk out, or defend the value of our own time.
A former colleague of mine has a wonderful approach to meeting proposals. Once a calendar invite pops up on his screen he calls the person who sent it. He asks if they can explain the issue they want to discuss and frequently they can. They quickly discuss how they can resolve the issue and assign next steps. He then hangs up and rejects the meeting invite. This process takes about a minute or two and saves time for everyone involved.
Many times meetings are called because the discussion leader thinks that is the proper course of action. I have had much more success with desk-side chats, taking the pulse of the organization, and presenting ideas to those involved.
Meetings can happen anywhere at any time. Preparation is key and accountability is vital. Presumably each employee is an expert in their field and should be able to speak about it at any given moment allowing for instant meetings in hallways, at the water cooler, walking to lunch, or on the phone.
Importance must be placed on conversation and each employee’s interest in learning. If this type of environment is fostered then ideas are shared, problems are solved, and opportunities are seized.
Have you recently solved meeting waste at your organization? Share your tips in the comments section below.
Of course, if you must have meetings, just be careful. Take a look at how this company missed a crucial piece of information by wasting time in a meeting (credit to Saturday Night Live):