Master Storyteller and Fundraising Culture Changer, Lori L. Jacobwith, recently joined us for a webinar in which she took us through unique and effective ways to infuse your mission into any gathering. If you are ready to add more sizzle to your gala, golf event, wine tasting, walk-a-thon, annual meeting, open house or any other events, this webinar is for you!

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: We begin just some housekeeping items. We are recording this presentation. So if you want to review the content a little later on or if you have to leave early perhaps, you’ll be able to watch it again, just look for an email from me a little later on this afternoon. I will be able to send you that recording as well as the slides by email. Just give me a few hours after we finish and you’ll have all those good resources available to you.

And as you’re listening in today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. I know some of you are already doing that, so it’s great to see. We’re going to save just as much time as we can at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, ask questions, comments. We love to answer your questions live a little bit towards the end. So don’t sit on your hands by any means. We would love to get some interaction.

And just in case Bloomerang is new to you, we are so glad you’re here. We do, do these webinars just about every Thursday. But in addition to that, Bloomerang offers some really great donor management software. That’s our core business. If that’s something you’re interested in, if you’re in the market for software, sometimes soon or down the road, we would love for you to check that out. You can get a video demo on our website. You can look at all of our product information. So check those things out if they interest you and we can keep that conversation going. So I will go ahead and introduce today’s guest. One of my favorite people ever. Completely honest when I say that. She is Lori Jacobwith. Hey, Lori, how is it going?

Lori: Hey, that was kind. Thank you.

Steven: But so good for you to be here. You are one of my favorite webinar presenters. We just keep having you back again and again due to all the demand and just in case, you guys don’t know Lori. She is definitely someone that you need to know. She is a nationally recognize coach and trainer. She has helped non-profit organizations raise over $250 million from individual donors.

Lori: We’re up to 100 million in the last year and a half or so.

Steven: Wow. Excellent, awesome, very cool. Lori is a proud resident of Minnesota. She holds a BA from the University of Minnesota. She has also got some additional training from my backyard at Indiana University, their fundraising school and she is also a long time member of AFP. Lori, I am just super excited for you to be here. I’m not going to take any more time away from you. So why don’t you go ahead and get it started, my friend.

Lori: Well, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I love Bloomerang. And I would say right back at you as a kind and favorite people as well. The folks who said that it was hard to hear me, if this is better because I have moved my little, my speaker phone here, so I should be as loud as clear as I can be.

Here is a hashtag Ignited Storytelling for the session. But do please copy Steven and I in any tweets you send out @Bloomerangtech or @Ljacobwith. We would love to see the social media conversation that’s going on and I will let you monitor that Steven. And if you are not a tweeter or a Twitter person, both Bloomerang and I are, we’ve got Facebook presence as well, so you come see us there.

I am a speaker, trainer, coach, just a regular bossy person. And what I tell folks is, I like to make sure that I help as many organizations raise as much money as possible from individual donors. And I do that through storytelling. I am going to share with you some of the information that I have in my complete storytelling system. And then there are some other resources I’ve got on the screen that are downloadable, free resources, and I’ll share some more as we go.

I was at a fundraising event yesterday at a client of mine, and I’m going to share some fresh stories that didn’t even make it in the slide because the event happened so recently but they’re pretty exciting. I am a glutton for punishment. So we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people on this call. But I want to hear from you. So would you type in to the chat box, what is one thing that you would like to have happen when you share story with your community? One thing and let’s see what’s going to flood at me through the chat box here.

What’s one thing that you would like to have happen, they feel emotionally connected to our organization. They ask us questions, awesome. We spark some interest. We increase engagement. They write us a check. They get our mission and they pass it on to other people. They’re motivated to give us a gift or do something. The story was too good they’re in tears. People share their story with us right back. They respond to whatever the call to action was. They add us to their list of charities they love and support. Awesome, awesome, awesome. This is what we want to have happen.

The truth is I believe, so hold on, as I said, I’m a first born girl, grew up just bossing my brothers and my little sister around and coaching came naturally. I believe we are lazy story tellers. I believe we often take a quote or a picture and a couple of facts, throw it into the newsletter or the annual appeal and we assume and call that a story.

What happens when you share a story that’s really powerful is people do all those things that you just listed and more. So how I watched this in action, I worked at an organization in Phoenix, Arizona for a couple of years, called Prevent Blindness America. First day on the job, there is a pile of paper, I opened up the thank-you note that’s there and there is a note from a woman name Paula and a picture of her daughter Madison. We did vision screening of preschool-aged kids at Prevent Blindness America. We had a very small chapter.

But Paula, the mom, wanted us to know that we had found in her daughter that she was blind in her left eye when our volunteers came to her school. She said, “We will tell our story to anyone. I want you to know how meaningful this experience was for us. I don’t have a lot of money that’s extra. Madison is getting medical care and eyeglasses and she is doing great.” So she began to tell her story and Madison, little five-year-old Madison told her story to lots of people. We had little video clips. We did the most powerful little mission moment example of what she had to say.

When I started working there, there were 12 volunteers and me and that was it. We were funded by one grant. We had a whole huge footprint of 250 kids that we provided screening for. In the time, that I was there, we grew to a staff of five. I had trained almost 900 volunteers. Now our budget grew largely from individual donors because Paula and Madison and I and our board started to share stories about what was happening next for little Madison. What did that cost? What did it cost to train our volunteers to find that vision problem? And I am proud of the money part but I’m more proud of the fact that we were screening 25,000 kids a year.

So I know the power of how this works. I’ve been development director, executive director, board member, volunteer, you name it. And I’ve watched good stories and not so good stories be shared. Today what I want to take you through in our short time together is just a reminder of why stories work. If you’re a follower of mine, which I know some of you are, you know that I am a passionate master story teller and I also call myself a fundraising culture change expert. That’s a nice way of saying, I come into your organization, I stir the pot with whatever I’m saying or training or the information that I’m sharing.

So we’ll talk about what’s a story really and then I want to make sure that I give you 22 ways, examples of how I’ve seen stories be shared at fundraising events, powerfully and they’ve made some changes in the financial bottom-line of those fundraising events including the one yesterday. And then I’ll share with you some impacts, so couple of examples, quick case study examples and then I want to get time to hear what will you all do next from what you’ve learned here.

And let’s have a raise of hands. We’ve got again, hundreds of people but I’ll be able to see your hands raised. How many of you have a fundraising event yet this year where you could implement some of the things you learn today, if you get excited? Just raise your hands. If you’ve got a fundraising event yet this year, that we could affect some change at. All right, a bunch of hands went up, anymore fundraising events? There we go. All right. “Tonight,” Peter said. Oh my gosh, okay. So it looks like about maybe a third of you and we’ve got, as I said, hundreds of people on. All right, let’s get to it. So I can teach you some things so you can use them tonight.

Stories work. They are how we think. It is scientifically proven that our brains think in story. And we cannot take action unless we feel something about the decision that we’re attempting to make. You can go ahead and lower your hands, your arms will get tired. So when you’re sharing something important, facts, information you want me to remember, you want to share them in a story about a person with a name and age and descriptors about me. So I remember, so you’re painting a picture for me. You made a decision about why to be on this webinar, based on the story you told yourself or whether to bring an umbrella today or what clothes to wear or whether you work at this organization or somewhere else. It’s a story that does that.

So even those folks that say, “I’m not moved by emotion.” It’s not necessarily the emotion that the story is causing. It’s a conversation that the story is causing in my brain to decide to support you or volunteer with you. I believe, there is one secret to pretty much everything in life. Not just fundraising. It’s in your relationships, with your kids, your spouse, pet, your co-workers, your neighbors and that truly is communication. What you say, how you say it and how you describe the why of what your organization is all about.

So the way you stand out in the sea of everything that’s going on out there in the world and rushing at me, I know, some of you are already listened to the radio today. You’ve read some social media, you’ve read emails. You’ve had phone calls. Maybe you’ve even done some other work depending on what time of day it is in your city. So if all that information is flooding at you, that’s flooding at your supporters too. So the way to cause me to feel something is to talk about the impact I help cause.

Just yesterday, I got an email from Tom Ahern, I know, he works closely with the folks at Bloomerang. He’s a hero of mine in the non-profit communication world and he talked about we, the word we has to be in our communication now. It used to be, we talked about sort of the royal we, the large we. Well no, you want to talk about your supporters and you and what we are able to do together. When we share powerful stories we are creating hopefully, if you created a really tight powerful story, you’re creating unforgettable emotional connections that cause me to feel some empathy.

The truth is sympathy creates some distance. So thoughtful word choices and how you create your story or how you have a testimonial person tell their story or that video and empathy is what creates connection. So if that’s the case, make sure that you’re causing me to think about, feel something, and see a picture painted of some sort of unavoidable conflict that’s going on with the person in your story. Think about the kid stories that you might read or if you’ve got children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews or whatever it is. The reason they want to read that story over and over again is there’s some sort of conflict in there that gets them kind of excited to see the conclusion at the end.

So what is a story really? It’s what we do to make sure people are connected to us in our day. Mark and I say to each other at the end of the day, “So how was your day, what happened? Tell me a story.” And he’s got a colleague at work and he’ll say, “You know, I have got a Dan story today” and so we sit and share stories back and forth. You will share a story about your experience on this webinar with somebody else. It’s how we connect and it’s then how we connect since pretty much the beginning of time which is why I put the campfire there.

The good news is many of you, most of you are not reporters. You’re not here to be objective and careful in your reporting. You are actually on the hunt for the story, the example, the little tiny slice, that moment that causes me to say, that’s exactly what our work is about. That’s why we do what we do. So I often am a coach for organizations that have fundraising events and I get to coach their speaker, often their opening speaker, their pitch person whoever it is. And a couple of years ago, a woman named Shannon said, “Lori, I’ve got to do the opening remarks at this event.” A client of mine, down in Louisiana, “Would you please help me? I have about three minutes to do the welcome and thank you and this is what I’ve come up with.”

And she had written a welcome, “I’ve been a board member here at this organization for more than three years and in that time I’ve been inspired by many adults and children alike. Since my background is in social work, I’ve been able to work alongside many who have had to make life choices my family has never been faced with. It brings me joy to serve this organization and I’m honored to be with you today and I thank you for joining us this morning.”

Now she had three minutes to inspire the audience and I will tell you that when I read this and had her read it to me out loud, I said, “Shannon, how do you feel about saying this?” And she said, “Well, it feels kind of cold and I’m not very inspiring, am I?” And I said, “Well, good, I am glad you get that. So tell me why you work as a board member on behalf of this organization? Tell me a little bit about what caused you to be here and bring you here today?” You will notice the copy is longer and Steven will have the slides for you after the session today. I’m just going to read a tiny bit for you.

And she said, “Good morning. I’m very happy to be here particularly since my husband considered it a great act of courage on the part of this organization to ask me to be a speaker downtown at a function that required me to be here at 7:45 a.m.” And she went on to say, the deep connection she has began years ago when she didn’t even know anything about the organization.

She had graduated from college with a masters degree in social work and she would work with small, frightened children, lost angry teenagers who would arrive and talk about the nightmares from their past. And she went on to realize that those children, they represented so many courageous people who, she said, she admired them and was amazed by them not because of what they were dealing with, with their pain or the overwhelming level of need or even the bleakness of their circumstances. She said, what astounded me was the unexplainable remnants of resilience and hope and even faith in a better life.

She went onto tell a little story about she and her son but what I want you to know is when she told the story, I just typed it down word for word and we wordsmithed just a little bit. She was moved and inspired. You can only imagine the room of 500 people and how inspired they were to listen to the emotional sharing that she had. What she also did and what I ask organizations to do is not just tell me the story, but tell me how much things cost? So if it’s $25,000 to make a match with a big and a little or if it’s $500 or $7 a day to do something in one of your programs, start to share some of that in the story you share. What is the cost to scholarship one student?

My head and my heart have to be engaged. Both my connection to you from that heart but also the understanding of why you require me to take action. If you have got both pieces, the head and the heart engaged with the money piece and the emotional story connection piece, now is when I want to take some action.

So I just want to remind you what I think a mission moment is. It’s a short inspirational example of how your organization is making an impact. And with the number of people we have registered for today’s call there are hundreds of different missions that you’ve got thousands of mission moments popping up all day long.

And I want to give you a quick example of a mission moment to have you understand. My aunt is 89. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m in Minneapolis and so I go and see her occasionally. She’s at the end of her life. She’s in a care facility. She has dementia. She can’t walk anymore. My aunt has always been pretty spunky I would say. She has got a spark to her that’s a little bit, maybe crass, might be the right word. But she is a short wonderful, amazing lady. And I sat next to her in the hospital bed where she was for a few hours in June and read and just watched her nap. And she woke up and she looked at me. And I said, you know, “Auntie Evie, what is it that makes you happy these days? What brings you joy?” And she looked up at me and she had a funny look in her eyes and she had a little smirk on her face and she said, “Whining. I like to whine and complain. People pay more attention to you when you whine and complain.”

My heart tugged for a moment. That was a mission moment. And she went onto tell how they really care a lot. Take care of her well. And I share the story with them and so they said, great, we will have a whine all she can.

So the word choices that you make to describe your person and that mission moment has to be about a person, even if you’re an advocacy organization, even if you’re an umbrella organization, even if you do not provide direct service. You want to tell a story about someone who’s life is different. Your own, a board member, a volunteer, the person who is the recipient of that bill that got passed. Choosing words that are connecting, descriptive, that tug at me a little bit. I don’t have to feel joy. I can feel upset or frustration or sadness.

Here is my list of a few words here but I would love to hear, type in to the chat box, what are some emotionally connecting words you’ve got? I’ll just read a couple of mine off and then I’ll read yours as you type them in. But choose one word to describe your work. There are things about care that are compassion, soothing, hope, belief, alone, isolated, empowering and transformation are words that have lost some of their emotional connection.

So Nicole say more about empowering. We give people the opportunity to find their voice. That might be empowering. Support, possibilities, joyful, potent, that’s a good word. Forgotten, yes, relieve fear, someone might be excited. We see people who are hopeless and we provide them with the tools to find and build hope. Connect to childhood joy, that’s nice. Dignity, resilience, safety, these are great words. I usually have a piece of paper on my wall. I just jot down words all the time that inspire me. So I am never at a loss for words.

In the slide, you’ll see another example of a before and after story told but I think the one that I shared with you earlier was good. Because I want to get into the 22 ways that you can share stories at your fundraising events, the before, the during and the after.

One more. Jody says, “People feel connected to art and joy and each other and that connection, that’s where the empathy comes from. We take action that is longer and lasting from empathy. We usually will do a onetime action from sympathy. So it’s why I focus on, how do you paint a picture where I see myself or my child or my parent or my grandmother? So you want to paint that picture and have me feel something about that.”

All right, with the follow up information, you will get a visual display that will show you the before, the during and the after. But here is a list that will start with eight ways to share your story, powerfully and then some fun ways before the event. On this circle, the chart here, number eight and number five are ways that could be used multiple times before, during and after. But some of these others are just beforehand.

So the first of course is on the invitation or that save the date card. Many of you can borrow this copy. You equals hope. And on the back of the invitation, was this story about Derek who ends up looking down the barrel of his father’s gun. And he gets helped by this organization that helps children who have been victims of domestic violence or some sort of abuse. You may also have something before the event start on a little table tent. It could be a client story with their own words. Some descriptive words of what their life was like and what its like now. You may also have some programs inserts. I was at this event. It was our event yesterday but we had 20 minutes before the program started and there were plenty of things for me to read on the table and on the screen so that I was getting an indoctrination in the mission of the organization.

Pre-event short story video. So what we did for the event yesterday that was really important, not everybody at this event, there were about 450 people there, had deep knowledge of the organization. I filled the table with some of my friends and colleagues. So the organization provided us with short 30 second videos about their work. Someone saying what happened when they came to this organization? So that I could share those with my table guests. We shared them through email, we shared them through their website. But we had people aware of what the programs and services were and what they cost prior to coming to the event. And then of course, we want to use social media all over the place.

I like it if you tell me a short part of the story on Facebook or Twitter and you tell me the rest on your website. Either on your homepage or on your donate page. That’s a nice use of a tool that they’re already using about 60 to 70% of anybody who gives you money has gone to your website before they gave you that money.

Before number six is, at your kick off for volunteers or if you have table hosts or some other gathering where you’re getting people inspired, have a person tell their story or use that same format of testimonials, program inserts. And then the reminder emails. I like to sprinkle through some bits of information about a person who is going to speak at the event, but I don’t tell all the things about them because you’re building up this interest so that by the time I attend your event, I want to know more about that person. And you might tell me a little bit about how life was for Charlie when he crossed your doorstep. And now we’re going to learn what happened when he got there. But give me little nuggets of things to look forward to at your event.

And then of course, as I have mentioned, your website. Hopefully, if you’ve got an event coming up, a walk-a-thon or whatever it is, you’re using your website to share information about how the dollars raised will help real people. Here is what will happen when we raise 50% of our annual giving this year at our event tonight or next week or whenever it is. So that’s before.

Any examples, let’s see. Any thoughts on words for economic development, non-profits. Yes, so Sarah, tell me if you are going to ask my nephew, if you’re going to need my nephew Stewart who is let’s say, he is, I think, he just turned 14. What would you tell him your organization does without saying the words economic development and then I’ll give you my thoughts. And Steven if you see any other questions like that, if you want to just tag them as a question that would be great. Then I will keep the question page open. Thanks.

All right, so I’ll watch for your description Sarah and then I’ll read it off to folks. But I’m going to move into the during part and if I see what you’ve typed in I’ll pause. So I’ve got a few more ways to share your story during the event. Some of them are tried and true, you use them regularly and some of them I hope will stir the pot just a little bit, cause you to maybe giggle, blush or think that is a fabulous idea.

So during the event, live testimonials. We had three live testimonials in a one hour event yesterday. The opening speaker told her story about how she had been homeless. We heard a story from a client and he told a pretty moving story that caused, you could hear a pin drop a block away. Everyone was listening so intently. And then the person who asked for the financial gifts told his story. All moving and inspiring.

Within about an hour, maybe two hours of the event ending, this is not from yesterday what you see on the screen. This is from another organization. But the folks yesterday sent out an email, modeled after what I had shared with them here and they’ve already received a few thousand more dollars from people who weren’t able to go to the event. But we recounted the story of the live testimonials in the follow up email.

So a quick story of a golf event and at the golf event, this organization had never put up signage with faces of their clients before. They always had a dinner, an event right following the event. And they were disappointed that so many people left. So they called me two weeks before the golf event and said, “What do we do? How do we increase our attendance and our dollars raised?” So what they did is they created four different versions of client posters. These were large poster sized signs and they put them at every other hole and then at the holes that didn’t have those signs, they put this sign that said, “Because of you my mom and I have a better life. Join us after the tournament, to hear Jessica tell her story and Shana’s story. Dinner and program at 6:00.”

No one left that year. These two young ladies were the guest speakers and they had a funded need where they told their story and how much it cost and they raise three times as much as they ever raised. You could do the same thing at your silent auction event. You can have on the silent auction tables posters of my life is different and here is how.

There is also and I love this, places to be sort of crazy in the bathroom, the elevator and the stairs. I have been at fundraising events and they had someone in the elevator of the building to tell me an elevator story. They had a name tag on from the organization. They handed me a little picture of the person they were telling me a story about. It was only three floors that we went up. So it had to be pretty short.

The same organization had their bathrooms decorated in such a way that in the men’s room and in the women’s room, they look in the mirror as you are primping and getting ready, decide, who would you say no to? We have to make that decision every day. They had different stories tacked to the stairs for people who took the stairs. Utilizing the space that’s available to share your stories can cause people to sort of take a step back and say, “Wait a minute. I had no idea” or “I feel immersed in this organization’s mission. I understand more because of the different examples that have been shared.” If you do that in a way that causes me to understand what things cost, it makes a huge difference.

The picture I have on here is a picture that was in a restroom, for the women’s room during this month of October at an event for breast cancer awareness. And it was near the mirror and it talked about the fact that she didn’t have hair and as I’m primping my hair, think about the difference I could make as one person. It’s powerful, moving. You can insert a short story. Remember, it’s got to be moving and inspiring. And it could be that simple word of Evelyn, an elderly woman in a care center said, “What gives her joy is to whine and complain” and she knows she gets attention when she does that. You give us the ability through the resources that you provide us financially, through your time, to care for Evelyn.

Let’s see, I’ve got number 13, photos. One of the fun things, they did yesterday and let’s see, if I’m able to bring it up. They put pictures of folks at the event and when they did that, they knew when they told us that they were going to use those pictures for social media. So they had a key that we held and they superimposed some graphics on those. And let me just see, if I’m able to pull it up and show you. It was pretty fun, pretty cool and I don’t think I have it queued up for you. I’ll send that link to Steven later on so he can include it.

It was a way for every single person in the room to move through the line of picking up their name tag, getting their picture taken and now stories are being shared today about the event regularly. And they’re going to keep that emotion and that connection that people have, roll into probably even tomorrow and next week because people were so excited to see what their picture was. This is a picture of me and a client, he learned I was on campus and in an out of state training that I was doing. He rushed in to say, “I wanted to meet my coach who helped me speak at the event and I never got to meet you.” So it’s inspiring to the person receiving the picture as well as to the person in the picture with you, the client.

Banners, your banner doesn’t just have to have your logo on it. It can have a story, a six word or less story. Let’s see, I want to address what Susan has here. Let’s just take a look and see. “It’s so much harder if you’re not in human services or disaster relief. My environmental organization doesn’t have any compelling situation. So we just chip away at stopping water pollution. How can we do this?” Okay. So I am going to divert for just a second and answer your question Susan and then I’m going to take you back.

Word choices matter. So what I would say is rather than saying, “It’s so much harder,” we have to be more diligent to really hunt for the people stories for our organization. And I’ll come back to, I’m going to give you a couple of places to go look at how they do a phenomenal job at sharing the stories about water and clean water. So hold that thought because I’m on your team here.

Your banners at your event, do not have to just say your logo or a thank you. It could say a six word story. John’s car has a steering wheel. And then you can have a tag line that says, “You’re helping change his story.” Powerful ways for me to know who you are and what you do. Also been at an event where we got a button and on that button on the back side of it had a little bit of a story of the child that had died of what the disease was that organization was helping.

Now for you Susan, it could be a picture of dirty lakes, rivers, water and a person standing in front of it saying, “I care about this and here is why I care about this.” So your stories have to be about real people whose lives are different because of your work. So what kind of environmental, water pollution, cleaning up are you doing? Is it in a city, is it across the other side of the world? Give me a little more information and I will address that as we go here.

Video. Before, during and after video is an incredible use of causing me to feel something. But please remember to share your videos at your events and have the lights down, have it be dark in the room. Seventy percent of marketers use video in some form and when you use it, you want to give me the feeling that I can feel as emotional as I want to, angry, sad.

I’ve watched an organization that is working to clean up the planet and they held up pictures of the before and after of a field, of a pasture with cows before and after some of the environmental issues and then they asked us to tell our feelings about how what we felt about those pictures. Pretty moving and inspiring. So they didn’t tell necessarily stories about other folks. We told our stories and connected in a powerful way.

We are still on during. So 17 is, I love this. A lot of you have confidentiality issues. So do some sort of infographic or cartoons, but have it be real people’s names. I’ll never know who it is and then tell us something about that person. This is a tiny story. Elizabeth likes to color outside the lines. And it might be that the rest of her story is on your website or information that has been left at my table or emailed to me after the event.

Number 18 is when I was just talking about and that is have people share their own story. There is a meal break time, a lot of times at some of the events that you have, a gala, the golf tournament events has that award ceremony with hopefully some cocktail, sausages or something. Have people tell each other why they’re here, what they know about you or something about someone they’ve met who is doing work with your organization or who is benefited from your organization.

My last four are ways to tell your story after an event. I’ve got a link here for you. This is a case sensitive link, it will show up in the slides that Steven shares with you later. You want to watch this video. This is a very professional buttoned down woman. Tracy is the executive director of an organization that used to be called Accountability Minnesota. They provide tax preparation for folks and they now call themselves Prepare and Prosper. But she is very professional and you’d think this is going to be a very professional video and it’s 47 seconds longer or 57 seconds long and it’s cute and fun and short and makes you smile. And it was sent to their volunteers who ended up raising a ton of money in the volunteer appeal that they had during their annual fundraising drive.

At your event debrief. I will be debriefing with the team who held their event yesterday, next Tuesday, one week later. And part of the questions that I ask them are where were you moved and inspired? Tell me the story of the person that moved and inspired you either on the stage or in the room? So that event debrief will be with their committee and their staff and some of their board members and we will be having the mission right there because of the stories that are recounted.

And then for sure thanking. These are just a handful, I get thank-you notes sent to me pretty regularly and I keep them here on my desk. So that they give me a smile. I don’t know if you’ll be able to see this, but the most recent one came just a day or two ago from an organization out in California. It’s got cute kids on it. They’re holding up the letters “Thank you.” They’re not all doing what they are supposed to be doing. And on the back is a little story about one of those children.

So you could do that again with a person who does the research to cure whatever that disease is. Glaucoma, PKD, cancer. It doesn’t have to be a cute kid or an elderly person or a veteran. You can do that with the scientist who is helping develop the program to keep the water clean and have me stand in front of or show the picture of what the work is that I’m hungry to be doing.

And then the last one is your wrap up e-news. So the email that went out from the organization that had their event yesterday, I will guess will raise another couple of thousand dollars before it sort of dies off by Monday or Tuesday. But the email was powerful. It recounted some of the stories that were shared just a little bit. Gave a click and a link to the video that we could watch. And it also asked for our stories and our feedback about the event.

All right, so those are the 22 ways. If you’ve got other ways, type them in and I’ll go back in and have Steven highlight them for me. But let me give you a little bit of the impact from a couple of organizations I have worked with and then I want to get to your questions and come back to Susan and talk a little bit non-warm fuzzy kinds of organizations.

So this organization anonymous client example, they are an organization that provides leadership opportunities for use in their teens all the way probably about 13 all the way up to 18 maybe even 20 years old. They were telling about those kids. They were talking about them at their fundraising event in 2011. And they let me come in and sort of stir the pot like I like to do. Ask some questions, worked with their speaker. The event, the next year had a 56% increase in its fundraising. The organization that I was a part of that had their event yesterday, I’ve done the calculation and they’ve had a 59% increase over last years fundraising with not very many more people. Just more powerful stories being shared.

This organization, Jeremiah Program here in the Twin Cities. They had this woman, this is Tiffany and her children speak at their gala, their event that they have in the fall, they talked about what it cost per year to help a family like Tiffany’s. But then they had this insert. This is a half sheet of paper and it got sent out in the thank-you letter to remind us what we had learned at the event. It also, that story got shared in their annual appeal letter. So they utilized the same story multiple places and multiple times to cause me to still feel that same feeling I felt when she was powerfully telling her story at the event.

All right, so economic development, non-profit. Sarah, did you type in some more words for me. “We’re in a coastal city and we are working to protect and improve the environmental quality of coastal waters. It’s not about drinking water.” Okay. So why does it, why do you need to exist? It might not be drinking water like Charity Water is. They’re a great organization that tells extraordinary stories about drinking water. What’s the importance of having clean coastal waters? What will die if we don’t have it? What does it do to our planet? And then equate that to one person, one adult, one child, one senior, one researcher. If you ask the people who care about you, why they are passionate about you, they have stories to share.

I would say, go find the donor who has been giving to you the longest or the staff person who has been giving their time and their brilliance to your organization as a staff person, the longest. And ask them why? Ask them why they came to you? What do they get out of doing the work with you? And what do they see for the future if your work isn’t funded? What will happen? That is a powerful story. That’s a people story. You’ve got stories whether you serve clients, real people or not.

Let’s see, let me to back to Collin. “Can video still have the same impact at an outdoor event where the lights can’t go down?” I have to tell you the truth, Collin, they don’t. But what can, is send me the clip afterwards. Send me the clip to watch on my phone, have it ready, collect my cell phone number, my mobile phone number and say, “When you get home tonight, re-watch this video” and make sure that you’ve got the URL for where to make a contribution at the end of that video. Because when I watch that in the power, in the quiet, in the silence of my own home, or my car or wherever I am, that’s when the connection can happen. Even if it’s on the little bit of my telephone. Great question.

Catherine says, “As an international organization, a staff who would be organizing and dispersing the stories are thousands of miles away from our beneficiaries.” I love this question. I get it asked a lot. Telling the stories, so they’re far away. I get that. “What recommendations do you have for a training staff on the ground there to gather these powerful stories? Do you have specific interview questions that would help capture these?” Well many of us have one of these. A smartphone and what is the one thing that these smartphones now have because they’re so darn smart. They have a camera. I don’t like to have high quality videos when you’re talking to the people you serve. I love to have their story shared right on the camera in front of them.

And the questions to ask are, how do you feel today when you come to the school or the whatever it is? Why do you like coming here? How do you feel when you go home at night? Or how did you feel before you came here. You want to ask how they feel, you don’t want to ask them to tell you a story. And what do you feel for the future of your country or your community? What are the feeling words that you’re listening for and then that’s where I take you back to the list that I shared with you here. You want to be listening for words that are descriptive, visual, words that have me feel some empathy. It might be I feel so isolated or I feel ashamed or now I feel proud and I feel faith for the first time. So you ask how people feel. That will make a big difference in the kind of feedback that you get from people that you’re talking to.

A tricky problem has to do with language and cultural barriers. Well, let me go back to Catherine what I was saying. That smartphone video, you can put it in Dropbox and I can see it in about three minutes. I like to have organizations that do international work, have a regular updates from the field and they can be someone who is gone to visit one of those villages or one of those people or they can be the workers that are on the ground.

But you have regular updates just like you have an e-newsletter hopefully that comes out on a monthly basis. In there, you want me to have the mission moment connection. And I like a video that’s about a mission moment to be less than two minutes. So a minute, a minute and a half and you can edit some pieces together if you want to. But I’m not hi-tech. I just take that little snippet of that quick question I asked of how they feel and maybe an email I might say, “You made this happen. Here is an update on what you made happen yesterday.”

Okay, now the tricky problem has to do with language barriers and cultural barriers. “Many times the beneficiaries modestly downplay the hardships they’ve been through.” It’s our job to play up and tell the background. But it’s their job to tell how they feel now. So let me give you an example. I used to work with an organization and they would take us on a tour of the school and they would ask us to count the number of books in the school classroom and to notice where the crayons were in the classroom.

And so we would count the number of books as we went in and they would notice that there were 3 books and there were 30 children. They also would ask for the crayons and the teacher would pull out the tin, you know the Altoids tins? That’s where the crayons were and if the teacher had the tins, that meant, they were the lucky teacher because they had one tin between two classrooms. So it’s our job as staff and as volunteers and board members to tell the background and get me ready to see what is different because you’re there. Hopefully that makes sense.

Okay, let me keep going here. “It seems like tangible things like clean water sell better than evangelism ministry.” Not at all Robert. “How can we share your stories that will help raise more money?” So let me tell you this. Each of you has your community. You’re not looking for everyone on the planet to give to you. The truth is, everyone on the planet is not your audience. What is your audience are the people whose passion is the same as yours.

So if you know that, an organization that I love is the Pangea World Theater and I love them not for their theater so much. I love them because Dipanker and Meena, their two founders and directors, they start every meeting with a moment of silence and the bell ringing that we do in meditation. They have us centered and grounded. That’s meaningful to me. And then we talk a little bit about what’s going on in our world before we get into talking about their show or see the performance.

So you want to say something like why is your faith or why participating at our church or in this practice, why does it matter to you? How do you feel differently? What does it do for you? Give me some descriptive words. And that will resonate with your audience. I hope that makes sense. You’re on a fishing expedition for the very people for whom your mission is their mission too.

So the stories you share will resonate with people whose mission is the same or similar to yours. So if you share a story with me about prayer, that might really resonate with me or meditation that might really resonate with me. But it might not for Catherine or Kelsey or Tony who is on the call here today. But don’t worry about the effectiveness of getting to the masses. Look for the people who are in your community that you want to go deeper with.

Okay, let me see, if I can get to one or two more before we do the wrap up here. “Can these stories have the same impact if the storyteller speak another language?” For sure. So what my recommendation is, we did this yesterday. We had someone speak at the event and it was on the video and we had subtitles. But we only asked her three questions and we had her answers, she may have said more but we had her answers be really clear and really bold in descriptive words. So have me speak or have me have my picture, but then tell me in the language that I will understand whether that’s English or Spanish or whatever it is how they’re feeling.

What it is, now I’m going to sound like a broken record on purpose. The reason stories matter, remember, we think in stories. They cause us to feel something. I connect with how someone else feels if I understand and have some sort of background and vision of where they’re headed. And that means, there’s got to be feeling descriptive words in there. And those are the words we often shy away from when we’re writing a grant proposal or we’re writing a newsletter article. So that’s why I say our storytelling gets a little lazy. When we’re doing those kinds of recounting and reporting, we don’t have to pause and find a word that’s connecting.

Let me see if I can get to one more. Bathevia, “We are a non-profit private school. We specialize in small student teacher ratio and we serve people who are at risk for school failure, including ADHD, autism, Asperger Syndrome. Should I get testimonials from parents?” Yes. And here is what I would tell you. Your language right there Bathevia is all grant writer speak and all jargon.

So I would say, “We are a school that cares for and teaches children who have special learning needs. Sometimes, they don’t see their letters correctly. Sometimes, they can’t quite figure out what to do with all their energy. In fact I know, some adults that are the same. They have more barriers holding them back from success than the average child in our community.” I would like to say that versus at risk. So the word choices really matter. Absolutely get quotes, testimonials from the parents and the children. Those will make a difference and the teachers will tell you, this is what causes me to feel proud. If I use children? Yes, you do need to get permission or you say, I’m going to call in Timmy today. I have changed the name to keep him anonymous to you.

Let me give you a couple resources and then I want to ask you a couple of questions. So I have got an eBook that is, it’s got some connecting words in it. It’s got a storytelling format in it. It’s a free resource. You can download it when we’re done. Steven will share the link with you. The link is a case sensitive link. So it’s all lowercase and it’s bit.lybloomerangb2b. So those are all lowercase letters in there. But bit.lybloomerangb2b. I’d like it if you stay connected to me in whatever way you’d like. Tell me your story. Download some of the free resources. Check out the storytelling system. There is more resources than in the free thing. But social media is where I like to share my wisdom. So take a look there.

Tell me this. Type in the chat box, if you would, what will you do differently? What is it that you might do tonight whoever has the event tonight, what are you going to do differently next week, next month, at the fundraiser that you’re having, in the appeal letter? Because I want to make sure we’ve got something that will stick for you. What is it? I’m going to read a couple of them off and while you’re typing in, remind you that people might forget exactly the facts you shared or what you do as Maya Angelou said, but people will never forget how you made them feel. That’s what we’re looking to have happen.

All right, so we’re going to gather stories at the event. Yes, that is the perfect way to infuse your mission. Focus on one individual in particular. That’s fabulous instead of a group. More storytelling information in more places. Not shy away from talking about the money. Find some stories. Change the language from ADD to more energy than he knows what to do with. Capture video of our kids and their parents on their first day in our program. I would love to see that. Short videos from the mission fields.

Use language at the golf holes to tell our homeowners stories. Ask more people with stories and with the questions that they learned today, gather short snippets throughout the event, through signage and communication, describe emotions. Come up with story angles. Being in orchestra, we don’t have babies or pets, no, but you bring joy. Ask your audience how they feel with that music that you play. Tell the stories with feeling rather than just facts. Use inclusive language instead of statistics. Share more personal stories on our website. Share more pictures, share story on our invitation. Add a new storytelling element to our large scholarship event.

Oh, my gosh, you guys have brilliant ideas. I love this. Add photos to event signage. Have donor luncheons which we have very inspiring student testimonials. Share those beyond the event. And when you follow up, ask people how they felt about hearing those stories. Start including dollar amounts to help people connect with what can be done in actual dollars. Oh my gosh. You guys get the gold prize. You got it. Thank you so much for listening carefully. I love making a connection between here and here for your fundraising. So tell me your good news. Help me know what works and Steven, I’ll turn it back over to you.

Steven: Awesome, Lori. That was really great. Thanks so much. Really enjoyed it. I know everyone else did as they were chatting in. Thanks everyone for participating and being a good sport there. If we didn’t get to your question, we’d really love for you to reach out to Lori, follow her on Twitter, check out her website. We’ll definitely be sharing that eBook as well as the slides and the recording. So look for an email from me in just a couple of hours. You will have it today for sure.

We’ve got some great resources on our website as well. We would love for you to check that out. And a couple of really good webinars coming up the rest of the month. This was a great way to kick off October. Next week, one week from today Susan Black is going to be our guest. She is going to be talking about kind of creating that ideal donor profile. It’s always good to know who you want your donors to be. So she is going to help you do that. And then about, it looks like six days after that, we’re going to do a special Wednesday webinar with Ellen Bristol and Linda Lysakowski and they’re going to talk about donor retention, always our favorite topic here at Bloomerang. So check those out.

There is even more webinars on our webinar page. You can register for through the end of the year. We would love to see you again. So we’ll say, thanks. Look for an email from me and hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon on our next webinar. So have a great rest of your day and have a great weekend. Talk to you soon.

Lori: Thanks everybody. Thanks Steven.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.