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Telling your story: A case for support

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Don Mikush

Don Mikush

Don Mikush

May I tell you a story?

It’s about discovery. Digging deep, peeling back layers, and exposing what’s important.

It covers the sometimes meandering road to figuring out what matters the most to those who matter the most to you.

And like most good stories, it’s got heart and heartache, pain and triumph. Could it be your story?

These days more and more deserving and visionary organizations like yours are competing for limited dollars from a finite number of very busy donors.

How do you grab their attention, or more importantly, convince them to care?

In his book “Storytelling as Best Practice,” public-interest communications expert Andy Goodman writes, “Although the nonprofit sector remains devoted to data and enamored of empirical evidence, we often fail to realize that the battle of hearts and minds starts with the hearts.”

When people connect to people, good things happen.

Campaign priorities and budgets matter, too, of course. But it’s unlikely that even the most data-driven donor will give you more than a passing glance without an emotional attachment to the work you do.

What’s your story? It’s certainly not your mission statement, which most likely is not inherently unique or compelling.

Better to bring your mission to life through a real-world story featuring someone you serve.

It sounds simple, but it takes skillful and honest messaging, as well as an introspective and time-consuming look in the mirror.

When it’s right, though, your audience begins to form the emotional connect that triggers them to care, and then to give.

Each year, a nonprofit in Winston-Salem, N.C., is awarded the Joel A Weston, Jr. Memorial Award honoring excellence in philanthropic management.

At this year’s ceremony, Art Gibel, the president and CEO of last year’s winner, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, spoke of how Goodwill utilized its cash award to develop a job-training program in cooperation with Bethesda Center for the Homeless.

After several minutes of describing the program, Art invited a heroic woman who had recently benefited from the program to speak.

She spoke quietly of homelessness and despair, opportunity and hope – finishing her story with the joyful announcement that she’d be moving into a new apartment the following week.

She returned to her seat with a standing ovation.

I guarantee you that I wasn’t the only one who pulled out my checkbook. Now that’s what I’m talking about.


Don Mikush is the president of M Creative, a values-driven strategic communications firm in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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