These 3 Stories Generated Results (Case Study)

We are pleased to welcome our new guest blogger, Julie Brown, Program Director at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. Julie is intrigued by storytelling, and the opportunity it offers to inspire donors and volunteers to act.

”The universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” said poet Muriel Rukeyser.

Just a year ago, Ruykeyser’s words proved to be transformational for the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. As a program officer listening to a grantee report about a local man facing a terrible disease with amazing dignity, I felt called to capture this inspirational story using a medium that could convey its energy.  Grantee interim reports are usually full of data, but this was different; this one had soul.

In the past year, we have worked with a visual storytelling expert (Ben Severance of Timber & Frame) to help us tell our donor and grantee success stories. All of our stories are told in the same format used by the first humans as they told stories around the campfire—how one person facing significant odds overcomes the hurdles, resulting in positive change.  It’s the timeless story that humans are hardwired to understand: the story that shows our hearts why we should care about this cause and inspires us to act.

As a program officer at a foundation, the question I seek to answer every day is “What difference does it make?”  After of year of experimenting with storytelling, I have seen the difference it makes. Here are a few examples:

1) Building Community Consciousness: Go Jackson Doll—a mini-documentary about a young boy with autism who participates in a local adaptive skating program serving children with special needs—premiered to a few dozen community leaders recently. The premiere was followed by a public screening attended by several hundred of our neighbors. We then released the film online where over 1,000 people watched it in a single evening.  This glimpse into the life of a local family affected by autism provided the opportunity for all sectors of our community to discuss autism, and spurred interest in the adaptive skating program.

2) Fundraising: We recently launched Different but the Same, a short video highlighting a cross-cultural immersion program that connects international students from a local university and children in rural schools. Our community foundation funds this program, and we were thrilled when an individual who had seen the video was motivated to partially fund the program for three additional years by issuing a challenge grant to encourage other funders to join in his support of the program. Incredible!

3) Volunteer Recruitment: These short commercials, funded by a Community Foundation grant to the Children’s Mentoring Connection, have helped secure so many new mentors that the organization is seeking more children to serve and implementing new delivery methods for mentorship. We’re thrilled.

In the near term, we plan to release videos highlighting our donors, grantee projects, and the foundation’s founding story.  As a funder, we are supporting numerous videos that will help nonprofits share their stories as well.  Please follow tcfindlay on YouTube to see our future releases.

Has storytelling made a difference for your organization? Share your experiences here.

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