2 min Read
April 15, 2015

Is it time to tell your story better? Less may be more.

Ever been to Nebraska? I hadn’t until last week, when I flew to Lincoln for Cause Camp 2015, a conference organized by the Lincoln AMA and the excellent people at Nonprofit Hub.

Those guys know how to put on a conference. The agenda was jam-packed with excellent speakers like Steven Shattuck of Bloomerang and Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic, talking about a nice mix of strategy and tactics for nonprofit communicators.

Although the content of each session ranged, the overarching theme everyone touched on could arguably have been “less is more.” Experts in just about every session I attended cautioned nonprofits to bite off only what they can chew, set realistic expectations, and go deeper rather than broader.

Vu Lee of, for instance, encouraged nonprofits to share candid feedback with funders about the impact of restricted funding and to stop saying that 100% of a person’s donations go to programming.

Lori Jacobwith from Ignited Fundraising’s session was a hands-on workshop for organizations that need help telling their story. In it, she coached participants as they developed their stories in three sentences, then in just six words. Less is more, she advised: don’t try to say it all, every time. Just get the conversation started.

Lori has also developed a complete storytelling system that, like her workshops and webinars, breaks down abstract concepts into clear, simple modules that just about anyone can put into use. The exercises she did in her workshop are included in her book, along with tips to facilitate exercises in your organization. There’s even a fancy thumb drive with videos to supplement the book. You can purchase it via Ignited Fundraising’s website.

So: how and when do you take the time to pause, develop the right stories to engage your donors, study the results you’re getting, and focus on getting everyone on the same page? For many people I speak with, it feels hard to slow down long enough to do that. The work itself is sophisticated, or perhaps because we’re living in such hectic, noisy times, we try to tackle it all. It was refreshing to hear so many speakers at Cause Camp 2015 reminding nonprofit communicators and fundraisers to keep things realistic and avoid Shiny Object Syndrome.

If you’re trying to figure out how to shift your culture to be more deliberate and focused on results, consider spending time in May and June planning out your July-to-December calendar for donor communications or programmatic recruitment. What audiences are most important for you to reach? What types of actions do you want them to take? Rachel Allison’s article on this topic offers detailed advice, or you can give Big Duck a call if you feel like you need help mapping out a plan your team can stick to. 

On another note, please come and find me if you’ll be at Fundraising Day New York on June 12th! I’d love to see you there.