The Best Kept Secret in Town
So many in the charity and nonprofit world are internally focused on the good work they do. They see, on a daily basis, the positive results generating from their effort. In fact, that is their motivational force, but they may not make a priority of sharing those results with others outside their organization. In many cases, their accomplishments are the best kept secret in town.
It’s not bragging, its sharing
Our associate Tom Schweizer asks us to think about the UPS driver who often visits on a daily basis. What is his visit like? We may nod, say thanks, and sign a receipt. Yet, do we take the time to tell the driver about the great work your organization does? He may become an advocate.
Ways to Share the Story
At the most basic level:
- Do you have a website? – Make sure it is regularly updated with success stories and events.
- Do you have a Facebook page?-Do you post to it several times a week. Encourage your staff, volunteers and advocates to post on the site with pictures and comments. Don’t make it the responsibility of only one person.
- Do you have a brochure or flyer?-If you do, are they sitting on a desk or table in your lobby. Make sure they are distributed to locations throughout the community. The chamber of commerce usually provides a display rack for member organizations.
- Do you regularly send news releases to local newspapers and magazines? – Write interesting articles and include pictures. Make a friend at the paper, to whom you can send the article directly. That gives it the best chance of being published.
- Do you make presentations to local civic organizations or church groups? Civic organizations and Church groups are always looking for speakers. Don’t go there with the expressed purpose of soliciting money. Go there to inform and tell your story.
- Do you have a newsletter? – A newsletter requires a mailing list. Those on that list are potential volunteers, advocates, and donors.
The prime reason for fund raisers is to raise money. Of equal importance is to tell your story. Most nonprofits do this very well, but there may be better ways to accomplish this more effectively. Bring clients to the fund raiser. Show videos of activities on a big screen. Hand out promotional items such as tee shirts and refrigerator magnets.
One of my favorite nonprofits, last year, started to sell barbecue sandwiches as a fund raiser. It was a great team activity with the staff and volunteers preparing the food, packaging the lunches, and distributing them to businesses throughout the town. It became a very popular activity. Who would not buy an $8.00 lunch delivered to your place of business? In a recent meeting, we were discussing the event and one of the managers remarked that the customers most probably did know about our organization and its activities. The lunch was not being used to the tell story. All future events will include a flier enclosed with the sandwich that tells the success story of one of the organization’s clients.
Develop Your Advocates
Every charity or nonprofit needs to have and develop advocates. Churches want their parishioners to be their advocates and bring new members into the congregation. Charities need advocates to help with fund raising and to bring in volunteers. A list of advocates might include; staff, client family and caregivers, volunteers, members of the board of directors, and community leaders.
Advocates have an emotional connection with the cause. For example, if you have been personally involved with a family member who suffered from Alzheimer’s, you would likely be emotionally involved with efforts to care for those who were afflicted with the disease or fund raising for research in this area. If you came from an area where many children were not encouraged to read books, you might become involved with supplying youngsters with reading material. The challenge for the nonprofit community is to identify those emotional connections and tell your story in a way that connects.
Why We Tell Our Story?
Telling you story provides a wide range of benefits. Consider the following:
- Fund Raiser– We live in communities of very generous people who have many causes to be considered. It is more likely that they will contribute to one they know and with whom they are emotionally involved.
- Staffing- Employees are more willing to join organizations with which they are familiar.
- Volunteers– Like employees, volunteers will be attracted to causes with which they connect.
- Clients– People with needs tend to gravitate to organizations they know.
- Government– Many organizations are dependent on city councils or county commissioners for support and funding. An awareness in the community of the valuable contribution a nonprofit provides is important in maintaining support.