It was a warm September day in 2013 and I was about an hour outside of Austin, TX on a bus heading to the airport. I was leaving a conference, and during the course of the bus ride was talking to a friend about what was next. I remember telling him that I was ready to write a book on storytelling.
Writing The Storytelling Non-Profit has been an intense, stressful, joyful, rewarding, challenging, and incredible experience. I wanted to write this book because I want more non-profit professionals to feel confident in their storytelling skills and be able to tell great stories. While unpacking this process in the book, I discovered that the research and writing process was incredible professional development. If you’ve ever wanted to get better at or learn more about something – try writing a book about!
While the process had its ups and downs, I am very glad to share this book with everyone. It’s the book I wished I was starting out as fundraiser.
Today, I want to share with you 3 things I learned about storytelling and myself while writing this book.
#1 Consistency Is How You Crush It
The only reason this book was finished was because I was consistent. During the writing phase, I sat down and wrote a minimum of 500 words a day. When I was going through the editing process, I similarly gave myself daily goals to keep the momentum going. What I also learned from interviewing organizations for this book is that non-profits who are crushing it when it comes to telling stories are masters at being consistent.
Being a consistent storyteller will look different for every organization. But it starts with this question – what’s one small action you can take every day to keep telling great stories?
#2 There Has to Be a Why
There were several moments when I contemplated quitting the project. I was frustrated. I didn’t feel like I was making progress. But the moment I reminded myself of why I was writing this book, I got back on track. “Why” will always be the driving force behind success. Not surprisingly, the same is true for great storytelling.
If an organization has not identified why they are telling stories – why that activity matters to them – they will be less likely to be consistent, which is important (see #1).
#3 Vulnerability Leads to Connection
One of the things that got me through the process of writing a book was being real with people. I regularly shared updates in my weekly newsletter about how it was going. The scariest missive that I sent was in November 2015 when I leveled with everyone about my procrastination problem while editing my book. I wrote about what it has been like, why I was procrastinating, how I felt, and how liberating it was to be honest with everyone. After sending that, I got dozens of emails from people who were also struggling with various things. Many of them said they felt less alone in their problem knowing that I, too, was also struggling.
Now, a past version of myself would have never sent that email in the first place. I would have convinced myself that I was being an over-sharer. But I know from my research and experience that when we show up as our authentic, real selves, we can be surprised by the community we find. Sharing a story can be vulnerable, but we do it out of a desire for connection.
Non-profit organizations also want connection with donors, clients, community members, volunteers, and so on. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable when telling your story. So long as it’s what’s real and true for you, people will connect with it.
Vanessa recently released a book called, The Storytelling Non-Profit: A practical guide to telling stories that raise money and awareness to help non-profits tell inspiring stories. Order your copy of Vanessa’s book on her website.
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