Every non-profit leader knows that to sell what they do, they need to have stories that showcase the impact of their work. It’s important for grant writing, organizational marketing, and raising the organization’s profile.
However, we need to remember the confidential nature of most non-profit’s work and the fact that it’s a small world—a world with many cross-connections and networks that make it difficult to maintain our clients’ secret identity when we tell their story.
So, how does one gather stories and maintain the confidentiality of clients and still promote the great work of your organization?
We know that every story needs to include:
how the challenge was addressed
This data can easily be collected by your staff during their interactions with current clients, but the challenge of confidentiality remains a concern. Some clients may be quite okay with having their name and story published; others will not be okay with having their story shared in any way. Either way, it is best practice to get their express permission to share their story – even if you plan on referring to them in general terms (the client or changing their name).
What if we looked at the challenge from a different angle? What if instead of looking to current clients, we reached out to past clients and asked them to share the long-term impact of working with us, including the changes that their time with us brought? Not being engaged in the process currently means that they are removed from the stress of the situation – and shows the long-term impact of the work we do, which is often difficult to capture. These stories are inspiring!
Or maybe, we seek out creative opportunities to share our stories visually. Can you use a client’s story to create a one-page comic in which you build characters through writing and graphics, engage the reader, and have good overcome bad? What if you created infographics that told a statistical story as well as provided testimonials? Now that would be different … and would catch the eye of the funder!
Or maybe consider creating opportunities for your clients to give back to their community by coordinating a simple street cleaning activity or working with them to distribute cold weather gear that your agency has collected for those living outside. These types of activities shift the focus away from their personal journey to how they can positively contribute to their community in simple, and effective ways.
A community initiative like this can be low cost, quick to unroll, and can help build the confidence of those in your programs. The opportunity to change a client’s perspective from one of being of ‘less value’ to one of ‘being of value’ while creating broader connections within the community, is important. Plus, there is a great story in this that can be shared with funders.
Creativity is required to find the “right” stories and opportunities to gather stories. However, I know that creativity exists within your team and within your clients. It’s simply a matter of finding the time (I know that’s not an easy task) and asking the question. Maybe your clients want the opportunity to lead the initiative? It’s worth the ask.
I hope that this blog posts inspires you to seek new ways of collecting stories and engaging your audience (funders, partners, the community, and clients) through storytelling. Let me know what appeals to you and what you decide to “play” with… maybe you will inspire someone else to play outside the box too.
As always, we love to hear your comments and stories. Share them in the comment box below.