Storytelling is all the rage right now. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t see an article or blog post on storytelling and how important it is in non-profit marketing. I recently found myself reading a blog post titled Three Keys to Igniting Retail Sales by Storytelling and Story Listening by Christorpher Kogler thinking it might have a different or fresh perspective from the for-profit sector that could be applied to the non-profit sector. The article was not what I expected, it was better than what I expected in two ways:
1.) To me, the article was as much about internal marketing and management as it was about storytelling, and internal marketing done well and its importance a subject I feel very passionately about.
2.) It talked about storytelling not as a tool for appealing to and motivating buyers (or donors), but instead about the role of storytelling in motivating employees (which could also be applied to volunteers).
In the article, Kogler interviews a senior sales manager for a big box retail operation who shares some strategies she uses to inspire her sales team on a daily basis. All were excellent suggestions that could be easily and effectively adapted in some form to a non-profit organization’s development or advancement office and would help accomplish two things:
1.) It would help motivate and energize employees.
2.) It would demonstrate and drive home the idea that everyone within the organization impacts fundraising success either directly or indirectly.
This manager holds a daily team “huddle:” a short meeting that is 80% inspiration and no more than 20% housekeeping. Perhaps daily is too much for a smaller organization, but what a great way to kick off a new week every week! Each meeting includes an inspirational story about how the company is making a positive difference in people’s lives. This is a great way to keep the organization’s mission front and center and to help fine-tune messaging over time. But it doesn’t always need to be a story about the non-profit organization’s mission – and shouldn’t be. There are ways the organization or people within the organization touch the lives of employees, volunteers and others every day as well and it is these stories that could and should drive home the core values of the non-profit organization.
On a regular basis, a department head from a different area of the company is invited in to lead the huddle and to discuss how both groups can support each other. These regular “cross pollination” sessions “keep the lines of communication open between the different departments and help employees have a deeper understanding of what’s going on throughout the company. Team members also gain an appreciation of how their sales efforts fit into the bigger picture and the importance of their sales efforts in growing the company.” Substitute the word “fundraising” for sales in the previous quote and it makes sense for non-profit organizations to explore the benefits of this type of exchange of ideas.
In another example given on how these inspirational meetings work, team members were asked to think of something simple they could do that would make a real difference in customers’ lives. Small groups worked on this for about five minutes then shared their answers. The example given in the article is a simple concept and it’s worth reading because it serves as a reminder that connecting with donors is about listening to them and focusing on their needs not just as a donor, but as a person you care about.
A regular half-hour meeting focused on inspiration, creative solutions and good communications seems like a great use of time to me, and a win-win situation for both employees and the organization. How do you, as a manager, inspire and support your employees? We’d love to hear from you.
Written by Lee Neel, Vice-President of Marketing, The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.