Engage your donors at a higher level - week long series: part 2

(If you need a chance to catch up on the conversation you want to start by reading Monday's post!)

Why do people give financially to anything?  Why do people give to your organization?  What would cause someone who has worked hard for their money to give it away?

This conversation could go on for days.  Yes, some people give because they feel like it's a spiritual responsibility.  Yes, some give because they earn enough money they need to give to a non-profit for the tax credit.  These are true but a large majority of donors, regardless of their financial make-up, give because they are motivated to give.  The motivation is there because they have witnessed a non-profit do what it's created to do.  This is where we find generous people connected to an idea and that changes everything.

Why does a connected donor change everything?  A connected donor will be around much longer than the person who needs to give for a tax credit or the person who feels like they need to give for services rendered.  For the most part, retaining connected donors is more valuable than fishing for the next big gift.  Typically, people who give really big checks are always looking for the next really big thing to give to.  Operating budgets are not something they typically look for.  So how do we keep donors connected to the daily idea our non-profit exists for?  It has everything to do with taking leadership in telling great stories...OFTEN.

Non-profit leaders need to remember the new non-profit world is highly competitive as I mentioned in the first post.  Were you aware the non-profit sector outgrew the business sector and government sector between 2001 to 2011?  To start the millennium non-profits grew by 25% according to a study by The Urban Institute.  The work your organization was started to do has to be first, the story you tell about your work has to be second.  Over the next ten years the way you tell your story will reflect in the donors you have.

So what can you do to connect donors to story, or the central idea of why your non-profit exists?

1.  Know who's in the tribe - One of my least favorite things is telling a story to someone who doesn't care.  We were throwing money away on paper, printing, and postage hoping people were paying attention.  There had to be a better strategy.  The awareness of our story got better when we focused on our top 30% of donors and community members who consistently opened our mass emails.

2.  Have a strategy - We could categorize these people who were paying attention, in our case it was top donor, alumni, and current parent. Therefore, we wrote once story a month specifically to these larger categories, which meant three stories a month.  Using this strategy we kept every audience in our tribe engaged.

3.  Know how to tell a story - Everything I've learned about storytelling I've learned from the Dan Portnoy.  You owe it to yourself to watch his presentation on how to share your non-profit's narrative.  It's important to learn how to communicate your non-profit as a hero in your community.  Dan can teach you how to do this.

4.  Use a blog - A blog continues to tell previous stories after you've moved on to telling the new story.  If you send an email or paper update they are limited in a sense of time.  Few people will revisit either of those.  Few people will also share an email or paper update with everyone they know.  However, a post on blog people can come back to all the time.  They also can share a post across social media to every person who follows them.  Your blog should be the home base of every story you share.  This way when someone new enters your tribe and wants to see the entire story, they can find it just by browsing through your blog.

Connecting donors doesn't happen overnight, it happens through many stories over time.  Consistency in story telling is important because once you begin to share, your tribe will expect even more stories.  Remember, they are easily distracted just as much as you and I are.  But you will become a financially healthier organization if you identify who's in your tribe, create a strategy to share stories with them consistently, know how to tell great stories, and use a blog as home base for every story you share.

I hope you'll continue on with this series on Friday as we look at the third component of "Tribe" leadership: connecting donors to one another.



Three ways you can help your organization tell better stories

The organizations that will thrive in the next era will have leaders who understand the value of sharing stories online.  These stories will give the tribe the opportunity to share the story with even more people.  So what are you doing as a leader to help your organization tell better stories online?

Here's three ideas to become a better story teller as a leader:

1. Create a blog for the organization - The goal is to post a story every two weeks.  Don't over complicate this.  Stories are always happening around an organization it just depends if you can get in the habit of capturing them.  Every post can share a great story in less than 300 words.  The shorter the post the better.

2.  Share images or video - What may feel like routine to us is inside information to supporters.  I encourage leaders to share images of their office and how they ended up in that space.  Share common meetings.  Share the lives of those who are working.  Share a thirty second video interview of what a team member might be working on.  There is countless stories that you could be sharing as a leader.

3.  Share one testimony a month - This is the ultimate proof that something is working.  A positive testimony that your product or mission is working is online gold.  If you post this testimony on a blog it has a consistant home, it can't go anywhere.  Which means you can share it with the tribe and they can always go back to find it in order to share it as well.



Your stories are boring people

What stories matter to the tribe? Another questions might be, if a tribe exists does the story have to be in words?  Most current tribes are moved far more by images than they are by words.  So, why are you wearing out your keyboard trying to tell such a great story when the camera on your iPhone is a better story teller than you are?  Which is more powerful?  A long written email or a picture where the tribe can make comments and see comments of other tribe members?  Of course the latter is because you just involved the tribe and reduced the distance between the two (or four, or eight, or 100) members of the tribe.

So you might want to rethink your long written story and just use a picture!


Coaches are better storytellers than wizards

I have this adventure where I truly don't belong.  I get to coach football at a local high school.  I don't just enjoy coaching, I love it! I don't think there is much about me that fits the mold as a high school football coach.  I'm not a yeller.  Never have been.  I don't like sunglasses.  Which, I lose every single pair that I buy so I don't spend more than 10 bucks at target for a pair.  As soon as it gets cold, I bundle up; nothing in me needs to prove to someone at a game that I can stand in a blizzard in a short sleeve shirt and shorts.  But coaching football and being on a coaching staff has taught me some marvelous lessons in leadership, the largest lesson being the power of story.

Our coaching staff is full of guys who tell great stories.  We had a meeting last week and of course it was full of great stories.  I mean laughter.  Stomach hurt kind of laughter.

Story adds an incredible value to leadership.

Here are the things it does for you:

1.  Story casts vision

2.  Story includes people

3.  Story causes people to laugh and feel, which makes the experience better

4.  Story reveals what is possible through what has been done before

5.  Story offers people hope

So are you a story teller?  Do you provide space with your team and when your with your people to tell stories?  Can you help people laugh?  Can you help people see what was and what could be?

Just for my own entertainment, make sure you deliver the goods...whatever that means?

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