Here’s a thought: cleaning your desk can be a really good thing. Mind you, I clean mine maybe every eighteen months or so – when the piles of paper are so high that I can’t see out the window. But that’s just me being a clean freak. It’s not contagious, I promise.
This morning I was doing a little tidying up and I came across an article from 2014. It appears that I (shockingly) clean up more on a 48-month schedule. Nancy Schwartz’s “6 Types of Stories that Spur Giving” is a great reminder – particularly during the traditional October-November stewardship months – of the importance of storytelling. Here are the six. What’s in the parenthesis represent my comments:
1. Your Founding Story. This is how your organization was created.
(I remember when our pastor first arrived and began a sermon series recounting our church’s history. We were all surprised at just how inspiring the story was. We had roots. We were important to our city. The reminder of who we were encouraged us to build on our rich heritage.)
2. Your Focus Story. If your founding story tells how your organization came into existence, your focus story should explain why you exist.
(This is the key question every congregation and organization must answer. Don’t know what your purpose is? Click here and here for some ideas. Watch Simon Senek’s powerful, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” TED Talk. Take time to figure out why you were put in your community.)
3. Your Impact Stories. These most-told nonprofit stories feature the before and after – and illustrate the impact of your organization and supporters.
(I love hearing old-fashioned testimonies – stories – from people who have had their lives changed for the better by being involved with a faith community. Because of your congregation, lives are being transformed. It’s time to reclaim the testimony.)
4. Your People Stories. These are donor, staff, volunteer, client/participant profiles.
(This is very similar to “Impact Stories” but the focus is on how your congregation/organization is changing people from within your organization. This is often told in written pieces.)
5. Your Strength Stories. Strength stories showcase how your organization’s particular focus or approach adds value to the community you serve and/or moves your issue or cause forward in a way unmatched by other organizations.
(Hint: this gets back to your “why you exist” question. How do you add value to your community? Answering that question alone might have you cheering and feeling great about your place in your neighborhood or town. Then – and this is critical – tell your strength story not only to your insiders, but to your community as well.)
6. Your Future story. Think about the change you want to make in the world or what your work will do.
(What does your preferred image of a better world look like? This is your vision question. In five years, will your community or congregation look the same because or if you’re there? I sure hope not. It should look a lot better. Let your people know what you dream, hope, and pray for for your community and how your congregation/organization will be a part of the change. This is what often motivates people the most to give.)
It’s a given. Stories are important. If you have any doubt, take a look at your Bible and think about all the stories that you remember from the Good Book. Your stories can make your congregation and its mission come alive and inspire others to be generous. You have a story to tell. Be sure everyone hears it.
P.S. November 10 from 9:30-12:30 Rick Beadnell, OR-ID Chair of Council on Finance and Administration, and I are hosting a free workshop “Electronic Giving in the Church” at Tigard (OR) UMC. Sometimes an in-person conversation is what’s needed to get over the hurdle of trying something new. Come join us! Find out more and sign-up here.