The day I made an impact

posted by
Colleen Dunbar,

Project Specialist,
ASU Lodestar Center

A few Decembers ago when I was home in Vancouver, I went with some girlfriends to serve breakfast and hand out holiday gift bags at a drop-in center for the less fortunate, where community members are offered shelter, activities, and a daily hot meal. The morning that we went also happened to be Women’s Wednesday.

I don’t remember her name, or really what she looked like, but I remember her asking us for a pen to write with. I also remember her sitting by herself, hunched over a table, long after the scrambled eggs and hash browns had run out.

Once we had finished cleaning up and were getting ready to leave, she came into the kitchen. She handed a few of us letters, said they were for everyone, and then she left.

The letter that I held was titled “Favorite Ladies,” and this is what it said:

Telling your nonprofit's story

posted by
Kate Elliott,

Program Coordinator
Oregon Health Care
Quality Corporation

There are mountains of resources for nonprofits who want to perfect the art of telling the stories of the clients and communities they serve. Successfully telling these stories is considered a crucial part of nearly all aspects of nonprofit marketing, from the basics of communicating a mission and vision to soliciting the support of donors, inspiring commitment from volunteers, writing compelling grant proposals and more. To be sure, these are all very important aspects of defining and promoting a nonprofits’ identity, but individual organizations and the sector as a whole have an even bigger reason to sharpen their storytelling skills.

In fact, a recent Nonprofit Quarterly blog post calls on nonprofits to tell use their storytelling skills on a much broader level; to change the prevailing narrative about being poor in America. This call to action is right on point. After all, nonprofits invest significant intellectual and financial resources in learning to tell rich, vibrant stories as a means of marketing and fundraising. Many organizations are well-positioned to use existing skills to support honest portrayals of their clients in politics, popular culture and the media as well as challenge misconceptions or over-generalizations. As a trusted community resource with intimate knowledge of the hardships and challenges their clients face, nonprofits are in a unique position to tell these stories.

Telling these stories is no simple matter. Initiating honest dialogue about tough issues like economic class and the disparity between the rich and poor is tough work. Changing pre-conceived notions and popular myths is certainly not any easier. Having these conversations is not something America does well, but nonprofits are the perfect neutral player to facilitate them. Here are some things nonprofits can do to put their storytelling skills to good use: