Stewardship and Storytelling

By Julie DeLong

Successful stewardship includes meaningful storytelling. Whether in person, by phone, in writing, or through social media, we need to be deliberate and share the stories that give meaning to the mission. After all, that is how our donors got interested in the first place. Sharing stories builds emotional connections, building and stewarding relationships.

Create a pipeline to get the stories. You need to have access to a regular cadre of stories in order to use them effectively and in a timely manner. Good communication between staff and volunteers is critical. Your program, communications, and development teams need to work together. Storytelling in regular intervals is critical to keep the value of the mission top of mind. Check out this brief article, 9 Storytelling Mistakes Your Nonprofit May Be Making for tips around social media storytelling.

Make it personal! Trust me, it’s worth the extra effort. At a recent stewardship event for Utah Foster Care, we brought together a handful of major donors and a few foster parents. The event began by introductions all around, a brief update from the CEO, and light refreshments. Then came the most important part - - hearing from the foster parents. Stephanie and Mark are amazing foster parents with a lot of energy and love to share. Due to the legal status of kids in foster care the kids themselves are unable to attend these events.  They talked about their kids, including a recent sibling group of five, the challenges facing children that have suffered from neglect and abuse, and their journey as a family. The conversations and questions between them and the donors were rich and very meaningful. Stories of their daily life served to strengthen relationships and emotional bonds to the mission. Give donors an opportunity like this to see the mission in progress and give them firsthand examples of the difference you are making.

Give donors the hard numbers, the ‘infographic’ or annual report, and connect a story to it. The numbers speak volumes for how well the goals of the mission are being met with the available resources, but most people still get that connection with the story that tugs on the heartstrings. Tell those stories and keep new stories in the pipeline. Hold stewardship and storytelling events for your major gift donors and key stakeholders. Share stories regularly to build trust, create sustained support, and steward your new and longtime supporters.

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