For the boards I have served on and the boards I have coached, it has become self-evident that the more board members become storytellers, the more money they will raise.
So how do board members become better storytellers? While serving on boards and coaching other boards toward success, I have found six truths consistently rise to the forefront.
It is imperative that a storyteller have a great passion for the organization they are serving.
Unfortunately, I have noticed so many times people are asked to serve on boards for the wrong reasons. Being emotionally connected to the mission of the organization, having a true passion for the organization’s mission, is a better measure of outcomes than a prospective board member’s profession or resources. Profession and resources bring connections, but without passion, you do not have an engaged storyteller.
Every board member should be expected to be a storyteller. You should set that expectation for them early on, and they should join the board prepared to live up to that expectation.
At BrightDot, we call this type of board member a raving advocate. This is someone who shares the organization’s stories with their family, neighbors, civic clubs, and colleagues—in other words, someone who constantly shares your organization’s stories with others.
Of course, you also need the tools to help board members deliver on this expectation. This will keep their efforts organized and strategic so that you can ensure they stay on-message.
A good technique is to give every board member a storybook, a three-ring binder every board member receives and can add to at each board meeting. At every board meeting, the staff should share a story that is added to the board member’s storybook. In much the same way you would open a book of fairy tales to a child’s favorite, the storybook becomes a cadre of stories that board members can refer back to when telling stories about your organization. That way, they always have a story to tell, and you know that story is on-message.
Not every person is a natural storyteller. Many people need guidance on how to tell a story the right way, along with the confidence to share a story when the opportunity arises.
That is why we encourage boards to have a board member prepared to share a story at every meeting. When a board member hears another board member share a story, it reinforces their storytelling responsibility, but also builds confidence in one’s ability to do the same by providing other board members with the tools to figure out their storytelling style while also learning how to tell a story effectively.
4. BEGINNING AND END
Great stories have powerful beginnings and ends. Humans tend to fix on the beginning and the end of something and blur the middle, which is why the best stories have memorable beginnings and endings. This is what allows the story to stick in someone’s mind.
At BrightDot, we teach boards to begin with a description of the problem or challenge facing an individual, add the organization’s solution and impact in the middle, and conclude with a call to action for the listener to join in the cause. That way, the story has a clear build that’s easy for the listener to follow and easier still for the listener to act on.
When our granddaughter comes to our house for a sleepover, she always wants Papa to tell her a story. It gives me the opportunity to practice telling stories.
There is an art to capturing someone’s attention, engaging them in listening, and concluding with the call to action. As such, the best way to get better at telling stories is to practice telling them to others. If not your granddaughter, share your story with a spouse or talk to your mirror. We all know that practice is key to anything we want to master.
If you practice telling a story to yourself in the mirror, practice it out loud. The point of practicing to other people is to hear how the story sounds when spoken to smooth out any bumps.
At the end of the day, just do it. We all can find excuses (it’s the wrong time, they won’t care, I don’t want to control the conversation) but if you never even try to tell your story, your story will never be heard.
TELL YOUR ORGANIZATION’S STORY
If you are passionate, if you take your role seriously, then tell the stories of the lives being impacted by the good work of your organization!
“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do.” Helen Keller