Sarah Ford | May 23, 2013

Telling a Powerful Story

The following is an excerpt from a version of a presentation Barbara Harman, CEO of Catalogue for Philanthropy, recently gave at the America’s Charities Membership Assembly Meeting on May 21, 2013.

 

Telling a Powerful StoryStories of real need move us, and there are many such stories to be told – some more immediate and dramatic than others, and…many more than there should be. The problem is, we aren’t always very good tellers. We get bogged down in our own internal languages – jargon of the trade, insider talk that only our colleagues understand, a too-numerical view of what “impact” means. We need to speak to each other in a human voice, help the reader understand what the real need is that we are meeting and why it deserves the reader’s attention. We need to describe what we are doing to meet the need in a way that conveys important information that is still compelling and coherent (not a list of seemingly unrelated programs). We need to talk about impact – through powerful metrics if we have them, but in narratives if we don’t. We need to convey our vision of the future in a way that is inspirational and aspirational. And we need to communicate to donors, directly or indirectly, how a contribution to our cause will make a genuine difference.

Above all, we need to speak in a human language, a human voice – individual to individual, person to person, as members of one human community. In fact, helping readers to see that we are indeed members of a shared community is perhaps the best way to help them see the power and importance of joining the cause.

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