Connecting to Philanthropy

According to Peter Gruber, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author, “Stories teach, model, unite and motivate by transporting audiences emotionally.”


As adults we have long since stopped telling stories, except to our children before bedtime. Yet telling stories is the most profound way we can inform, influence or simply connect in a meaningful way with a particular audience.

Stories are a powerful tool that organizations can use to teach, inspire, motivate and challenge others to act. Most people are familiar with the work of local nonprofits, but few can articulate the mission and community impact of these organizations. It is essential that you make your mission known in a way that people understand and can hold on to. Creating a buzz about the good work your organization is providing can be tackled in many different ways, but it all starts with telling your nonprofit’s story.

How well are you connecting with your funders, donors, beneficiaries, employees, volunteers and the community? Do they understand the critical impact your organization is making in the community?

We’ve all prepared PowerPoint presentations explaining our mission and listing the programs our organization provides – but how well does this information connect the listener to your organization? Consider a recent board meeting, staff orientation or awards ceremony – were you conducting the business at hand and missing the opportunity to reinforce your organization’s identity?

What funders, donors, and the community really want to hear about is the impact your organization is making in the community. They want to know how their dollars are contributing to your success. They want to hear your story.

“We have a problem telling our stories” says Andy Goodman, nationally recognized author, speaker, and consultant in the field of public interest communication. “We fill them with jargon, acronyms, technical language and statistics. They’re almost unrecognizable as stories.” Good stories, he says, “cut through the clutter and connect with people’s hearts, opening their minds to your point of view. Dull stories don’t and all too often, that’s what public interest groups are telling.”

So, how can your organization articulately convey this important message? How can your organization inspire others to feel connected to you? How can you motivate them to act? Through telling compelling stories, of course! Stories are what display impact and meaning to your facts and statistics. Stories are what allow your audience to connect with your organization. Perhaps you’re already utilizing storytelling but the messages are buried in annual reports, brochures and news clippings.

You may be familiar with the work of Andy Goodman, watched his videos, read his book Storytelling as Best Practice or explored his website, The Donors Forum of Wisconsin is thrilled to bring you the opportunity to see Andy Goodman live in Milwaukee on Nov. 6.

According to Goodman, since we first began talking to each other, telling stories has been a powerful way to capture attention, engage an audience, and motivate them to act. As we learn more about how our brains work, we’re also discovering that stories are intrinsic to decision-making and shape our view of the world. In “Change the Story, Change the World,” Andy Goodman will explain why storytelling remains the single most powerful communication tool you possess, and he will offer specific ways your organization can use stories to advance your mission.

“Change the Story, Change the World” will be held on Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. Visit to learn more and register to attend this workshop.

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What a great way to connect with someone – tell them a good story.

Contributed by Jill Van Calster, President and CEO, Donors Forum of Wisconsin

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