“Leverage is a term used most often metaphorically. Its origin is in physics, where a lever literally ‘amplifies an input force to provide a greater output force.’ In all other contexts, we’re seeking figurative levers to pull which will magnify the impact of our actions.”– Col Fink, The leverage of speaking,
Aha! I thought when I received this blog post from Col Fink in my inbox. Storytelling is that “figurative lever!” And it all made sense because what I hear from you, my friends, is that you are busy, and your budgets are hurting after a challenging year. Starting a storytelling effort feels risky and not urgent because it takes a lot of time and it’s new to you. But the opposite is true. In the end, stories will save you time and increase your return. And I’ll use a client as an example to show you how.
I’ve had the awesome privilege to work with an education alliance for the past 2 1/2 years. A few weeks ago, they mentioned that their year-end fundraising campaign was off the charts better than ever in a meeting with them. It prompted me to look at the numbers and do some calculations. Yes, I did calculations! MATH! Here is what I learned.
Since the client began a regular cadence of storytelling, they have been able to increase their fundraising by 6 percent ($47,000) in the first year, then another 16 percent year over year in the second year for an increase of $91,000. This is with a team of three.
How they did it: Together, we focused on gathering one story per month. It might be from a client (a teacher grantee or a student), it might be from a leader at the school district or in the community (we spoke to business leaders and state senators). We talked to donors, the founders, and the parents of students.
Each of these stories might start as a blog post or a video which we would share on our social channels.
BUT – here’s where the leverage comes in. All this effort is then amplified to create a greater output force. In the blog post, Col Fink identifies other uses of leverage: in the world of finance, when you profit from borrowed money, you are “leveraged.” In software as a service (SaaS) as another example, you leverage passive income from a single product.
You can leverage your storytelling into multiple uses, not only saving yourself time later but also allowing you to be more effective with messaging more quickly.
In the end, storytelling saves you time (even though it takes a lot of time to do), and it has a greater return on that investment. You get rich content you can use in everything you do. Input from these stories gives YOU a deeper understanding of what you should be talking about. It saves you time when staring at a blank screen, wondering what to include in that next email or report.
Over time, my client had developed a database of stories from which to draw. We were brimming with content rather than scrambling for something helpful to say on the next assignment.
In December 2020, they asked me to craft a letter from the executive director to accompany a year-end distribution. We wanted the letter to show donors the impact of their generosity and how the organization quickly adapted to COVID.
I dipped into the story database for three grantee stories. When I sat down to write the cover letter, I reviewed those stories I had spent hours gathering and identified a theme that tied in with the letter’s objective. I was able to use three concrete student examples in one sentence for each, bringing a theme to life.
Instead of generalizing, I could cite an at-risk student who came alive talking about bee colonies, how a fifth-grader living under poverty level came out of her shell when she dressed up and performed in her fiddle recital, and how an aspiring design student was able to put his creative juices to work all because of my client. And the donors.
We then elevated the message to show what it is really about. We were exposing students to new experiences that build self-confidence. There was a big crescendo finale, trust me.
I sent the draft off to the executive director for approval, and she wrote back that it brought tears to her eyes. It took me less than an hour to write. (But of course, the hard work had been done.)
That was the year their giving increased by 16 percent from the previous year.
Take care out there,
Some ways I may be able to help you and your team:
Want help seeing things differently? Ready to make that idea of yours happen? I still have a few spaces available in July for my Take a Big Leap Coaching program for purpose-driven individuals who want to make a big change or level up their career, business/organization, or want to strike out on their own and launch their thing. This four-month, one-on-one program will help you articulate and make your idea of change happen. Respond here, and we can schedule a time to discuss.
Help non-profit team members level up their storytelling. In this three-part series, I can work with your team to help you elevate your organization’s communications and storytelling skills. Want more details? Respond here to schedule a time to talk.
Digital Transformation. Need to bring your work online? I’m here to help. Contact me for details.
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