In order to be able to make a successful ask, whether you are talking to an individual, corporate giving officer or foundation program person, you need to have a good story that humanizes the organization, its specialness, and why it is a great investment. The essence of a good story can and should be used by executive directors, board members and grant writers alike. So what makes a good story?
You Have to Know the Background to Move Forward
Every person who is going to tell the story should know when the organization was founded, what problem the organization was created to solve, and how it has evolved since its inception.
The Current Situation
Mission – The storyteller may not be able to quote, word for word, the entire mission and vision without a physical document but they should be able to paraphrase the purpose of the organization. Meetings take place at desks and in elevators, in conference rooms and at site visits, and the story should remain the same regardless of location.
Current Programs – It is important to know the services that are being offered, why they are special and how they help fulfill the mission.
Current status of the budget – If your organization is continually, on, over or under budget people want to know. If you cannot answer the basic finance questions, you can’t ask to increase the finances of the organization.
The Anecdote – What anecdotes can you tell that will spur conversation, interest and donations? Was there something specific that brought you to the organization? Is there a tale you could tell about one of your recent visits (this also shows that you are involved on a tactical level). Did you recently discover some new aspect of service?
You don’t want this to sound canned, but planning is essential to successful development and a story is no different. Think of the general concepts ahead of time but leave the specific details for that off-the-cuff feeling. Caution, if the tale feels old to you, it will feel old to the listener so unlike a mission or vision, stories need to change on a regular basis.
Vision – Remember what was said about the mission? The same is true here. No need for memorization but paraphrasing is essential to ensure everyone is articulating the same aspirations for what the organization might yet become.
Upcoming Programs – Here is your opportunity to talk about what new services and programs you hope to achieve in the next year, five years or ten years. Explain why these programs will help achieve your vision. And don’t forget to explain who would benefit from these programs.
Above all, remember that a story is a story and not a list of statistics. People can look at a brochure or website for the facts. You want to offer your passion, your excitement and the reason for your involvement. If done correctly, you will create a similar reaction in the person who listens.