It’s all about the story

I got the greatest feedback from a development director of another local non-profit who attended our last point of entry event. She was impressed with how we made a lot of nothing so moving. We are a social service agency. No cute kids, no sad puppies, or revitalized urban decay. Basically nothing to show for what we do. And our offices are, well, offices. Hardly tour-worthy. The true measure of the Benevon training is to make the story  overcome the obstacles and touch, move, and inspire your guests to engage with your mission.

The talking head is my new best friend.  A video of a family member talking about how her dad benefits from our Friendly Visitor program, which sounds like a nice old lady delivering muffins. He gets a ride to temple every Friday night with a family we matched him with.  Nice, but so what. Until you hear the back story.  He almost died after accidentally leaving the car running in the garage at his home thousands of miles away. She uprooted him to a local assisted living facility. The loss of independence, loneliness, and the change in parent/child dynamics were overwhelming for the whole family. These outings have given him independence, new relationships, and kept him connected to the community. She believes he would be “further down the road in dementia” had it not been for the connectivity he now enjoys and she is relieved at his improved quality of life.

Our story is not the outcome–the ride–but the work of an exceptional staff member who figured out what could make his life meaningful again and came up with how to make it happen.

Where to start

I inherited a  website I rate at Web 0.5 on Heather Mansfield’s scale of  social media evolution. Doesn’t even make 1.0 infancy. Our website is essentially an electronic brochure with snail mail newletters in .pdf form you can download. The “what’s new” is a year old consisting of a list of sponsors. Finding the Donate button is a challenge. And then, it connects you to a place to create a Paypal account. Our Facebook is a profile with 200 friends and a business page, not even a nonprofit page, with 26 likes.Despite it all, we’ve gone from 0 to 5 new requests to be added to our mailing list each week. So something is working.

I did not grow up with social media and have no interest in connecting with people over what I ate for breakfast. As far as I am concerned, people in my past can stay there. However, this is different. To get up to speed, I ordered Heather’s book Social Media for Social Goodand while waiting for it to arrive, I caught her webcast. Confirmed all of my worst fears but bolstered confidence in my own assessment. What needs to be done is a long list.

Less is more

In the 20’s, Hemingway won a bet that he couldn’t write a story in 6 words. He declared “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” his finest work. Students First found a winner for its contest to describe a great teacher. I voted for this one. Also from the runners up– “All 30 students raised their hands” was among my favorites.

A direct mail solicitation that is almost done has gotten longer and longer as everyone added a little something. It is now two pages but  lots of white space. I caved on my idea of a non letter format making finding an alternative to Dear Friends a must. I did, however, put my foot down and declared there will be no string of PS, PPS’s  at the end, like I couldn’t figure out how to end the thing.

As my distress of too many words reached a frenzy, my daughter sent me a TED talk on the subject. Apparently, I am in good company.

Sebastian Wernicke 1000 TED talks, 6 words

Stage Fright

warm & fuzzy at its best

The first call to action in the Benevon model is a “sizzling Point of Entry” to quote Benevon founder, Terry Axelrod. Ours is. So I hear. Warm & fuzzy. And fruitful. We’ve gotten spontaneous donations, gifts in kind from our wishlist, offers to do fundraisers for specific programs of interest, and much needed volunteers. Did 2 back to back in different towns today with the ED. Both pretty well attended. 2 board members attended. And brought guests! Huge breakthrough. Showed video clips of interviews I shot. Kind of raw and effective. So what’s the problem? I hate public speaking. I get nervous. The doorbells rings and I lose my place. I’ve been too busy to properly rehearse and I feel like a mess. I know it’s not as bad as I think because the feedback on the event is great. But I hate it.  I’m hoping it gets better.

It’s a start

I got the job! A 50 something veteran volunteer with 2 tuitions. Now the newly named Development and Legacy Planning Director, for a social service organization that does great work. Rather ostentatious title for a 20 hour a week part time job.  Development would have done me just fine. I introduced a former cause to Benevon, then called Raising More Money and yes it did, so I was excited to have a new team and new opportunity to implement the model. However, this gig is not without its challenges: a snooze of a board, poor name recognition, and donor attrition. But hey, I got an office. Priority can I get rid of that motivational poster without insulting anyone? Can’t tell if it’s a sunrise or sunset. Peter says they do counseling, always a sunrise. Whatever, it’s gotta go.

Snooze alarm

Sent new brochure off to the printer. Not really sure who did what and don’t want to step on toes so I made subtle changes. More story, better pictures, less blah, blah, blah.  Shocked to learn “Peace of Mind” and “Here for You” are names of actual programs. Hard to keep a straight face. But honestly, it’s the tagline that gets me -“Making a difference, one life at a time.” Two cliches in 8 words. Where is Nancy Schwartz when you need her!