Thank you Amy and welcome everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the conference so far. I’ve been trying to catch as many sessions as I can and one of the standouts for me was Katya Andresen’s plenary yesterday with her focus on why people give. For those of you who heard it, you’re going to find that it was a nice segwayinto what I’m speaking about today. I’m going to talk to you a bit about human psychology and how humans make giving decisions; I’ll move on to how you find powerful stories and, once you’ve found them, how you record them. Along the way I’ll touch on creating a culture of storytelling in your organization, and I’ll share a few concrete examples of how organizations are telling their stories. I’ll pause to answer questions twice: once in the middle of the session and once at the end. And of course you’re welcome to type in and submit questions throughout. Let’s get started.
Why tell stories? What’s the big deal?
Part of the answer lies in how our brains work So let’s get inside that brain and see what we can learn
In psychology , heuristics are simple rules, hard-coded by evolution that explain how people make decisions, judgments, and solve problems … typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information These rules are necessary for us to sort out the thousands of bits of information we’re faced with each day Which of those bits of information are going to stand out? Let’s look for a few minutes at some of the attention getters and sort out what the psychological rules are I’m going to show you a photograph… look at it and see if you remember the story the photograph helps to tell
I bet if I did a virtual show of hands, the majority of you would remember the story of Baby Jessica Jessica became famous at the age of 18 months after falling into a well in Texas in October 1987. rescuers worked for 58 hours to free her from the eight-inch-wide well 22 feet below the ground. … hold your hands 8 inches apart and just imagine what a challenge those rescuers faced! The story gained worldwide media attention and prompted then-President Ronald Reagan to state that &quot;everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on.&quot; The photo in this slide, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography, shows the moment just after Jessica was pulled from the well The story later became the subject of a 1989 TV movie . In 2007, USA Today named Jessica’s as #22 in its list of 25 lives of indelible impact” alongside Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa When she turned 25 a few months ago, Jessica received a trust fund of donations worth more than $1 million Let me show you another photo…
In my virtual show of hands, I’m guessing that fewer people can tell me the story of Darfur than could tell me the story of Baby Jessica. Conflict began in 2003 The United Nations has described it as One of world’s worst human rights crises. 5 million people affected As many as 400,000 dead Peace has been attempted, but is precarious How is it that people can more easily tell the story of Baby Jessica, and a million dollars is easily raised, but the crisis in Darfur is relegated to the back pages of the newspaper? The answer, in part, is related to something called psychic numbing
This is Nicholas Kristof, an American journalist , author , op-ed columnist , and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes . He has written an op-ed column for The New York Times since 2001 widely known for bringing to light human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, such as human trafficking and the Darfur conflict . But at first he struggled to get people to pay attention to these issues So, hey, he’s a journalist… he started to dig into it He discovered the work of Paul Slovic, who Katya Andresen spoke about in her plenary yesterday Paul Slovic was mystified by exactly what we’ve just been talking about: why so much attention is paid to a story like that of Baby Jessica, and so little to a story like the crisis in Darfu He decided to investigate it and conducted some really interesting experiments: On the first, Ordinary citizens were asked to contribute $5 to alleviate hunger abroad In one version, the money would go to a particular girl, Rokia, a 7-year-old in Mali In another, to 21 million hungry Africans In a third to Rokia, but she was presented as a victim of a larger tapestry of global hunger People were less likely to give to anonymous millions like Rokia. By they were also less willing to give in the third scenario, in which Rokia’s suffering was presented as part of a broader pattern In another experiment, Slovic has shown that the amount of compassion humans feel can diminish as the number of victims increases: In an experiment in Israel, Slovic asked volunteers whether they would help raise $300,000 to save eight children who were dying of cancer. Those in another group were told only about one child with cancer and asked how much they were willing to donate to save the life of that child. Slovic found that people were willing to give more money to save one life than to save eight. As Slovic has said &quot;The first life lost is very precious, but we don't react very much to the difference between 88 deaths and 87 deaths. You don't feel worse about 88 than you do about 87.&quot; So for Nicholas Kristof, Slovic’s findings have led him to focus on the story of one individual at a time. And what happens? He has a huge following and steers his readers toward donating large amounts of money to international development issues.
What have we learned? We’ve learned that humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they’re ideally set up to understand stories Stories get and keep the reader’s attention Help you communicate better Enhance credibility Linger longer in reader’s minds Get your message passed along further and faster Stories are concrete, so they illustrate your concepts better than abstract, noncreative techniques do. And because people derive a visual image from a story – as opposed to a blind recitation of facts – stories literally help your audience see things your way. People believe information more readily if it’s delivered in story rather than through statistics. So how do fundraisers stand out from the crowd of messages? By telling compelling stories
Stories resonate with the right (or creative and compassionate) side of our brain Feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations Lots is being written and said about the left and right sides of the brain these days We’re learning that the 2 sides of brain take very different approaches to guiding our actions, understanding the world, and reacting to events 4 things that have been found through research The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of your body. Left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous… so left brain great at reading a book, but right brain interprets facial expressions. The left hemisphere is words, the right is pictures The left specializes in text, the right in context. The left hemisphere analyzes the details, the right the big picture
Just for fun, try this out. Read the words… go… I bet some of you had trouble with that Here’s something interesting: As people age, their cognitive patterns become less abstract and more concrete … in other words, they become more right brained This results in a sharpened sense of reality, and an increased capacity for emotion They become better at feeling empathy and sympathy for others, taking the viewpoint of the one who speaks, seeing personal experiences and first-person stories as important way of learning, and embracing an ethic of caring
Hopefully you’re now convinced that stories are the way to connect with your donors. That’s all fine and good, but now how do you find and tell those stories?
Listen to what’s being said around the water cooler Ask someone who’s been with your organization a long time to talk about the early days What’s your founder story? Talk to the people on the front lines Think about your own story… why are you doing the job you do? How have you been touched by the cause you work for? Attend your charity’s events Keep an eye on social media (set up a listening dashboard) Carry around a notebook At the end of every day ask yourself “what happened today that would make a good story?”
Invite people to tell their stories Let’s look at some examples
This is from the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation in Canada Look at how many times the word ‘story’ appears on the page … 12 times!
This is from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Don’t hesitate to ask… -brainstorm with staff a few times a year -encourage staff to be thinking of the story of one… share stories with them so that they can see examples -follow up with donors who write a note along with their check, fill in a survey, call -the more you ask, the more you’ll change the culture of your organization Let’s take a brief question break…
Let’s get practical: what do you do with all the story ideas you’ve gathered?
How do you tell a story that leaves a big impression? You want to paint a picture in your donors’ minds so they pay closer attention, understand more easily and respond emotionally. Here are a handful of ways stories can connect your donors more deeply to your cause and your organization: You can tell a story to demonstrate the need your charity is trying to meet. The story of a homeless man leads to the needs at the local homeless shelter. A story can also demonstrate the solution you provide to that need. A doctor telling the story of a successful surgery and a recovered patient demonstrates that the funds raised for the new operating suite are getting results. A donor telling her own story about why she gives is almost always more persuasive than anything your charity can say about itself. An ounce of testimonial is worth a pound of bragging! A story about how a donation was used – and the results it generated – is a powerful stewardship tool. This story could well be told by a recipient of a service or program. Telling the story of how and why your organization was founded is a great way to bring your charity to life. It’s particularly effective when the story is about the people who founded it more than about the organization itself.
Let’s look at a few examples
MSF Doctors without Borders has an online photo blog Here they present a distorted image of a 13 year old girl at a maternity/pediatric department at MSF in Sudan Good story elements: there’s an air of mystery… photo is hard to make out; is she pregnant… at 13? Or is she at MSF for pediatrics; we’re not sure and we want to know more
St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto Very story-rich website Patient stories, donor stories and… the story I love, which is the The Angel's Story The angel has been a symbol of St. Mike’s for generation… let me tell you the story The time was 1892. A diphtheria epidemic was sweeping Toronto. Overwhelmed, the medical officer of health asked the Sisters of St. Joseph for help. They answered the call to service, and founded St. Michael’s in an old Baptist church on Bond Street. One day, the Sisters were in a local pawnshop. What they were doing there isn’t known; perhaps it was to buy furniture, linens or other supplies for their new 26-bed hospital. While in the shop, they came across a very unusual item – a statue of St. Michael the Archangel. Although it was black with soot and grime, the Sisters believed the statue held great promise. They had to have it. The Sisters drove a hard bargain with the shop owner, and bought the statue for $49 with money they had saved from selling old newspapers. The statue has stood guard at St. Michael’s for more than a century, serving as a quiet source of strength and hope for the thousands who pass by. It must have been quite a challenge for the nuns to get the statue back to the hospital, followed by hours of gently washing away years of dirt to reveal the beautiful, white marble underneath. Once lovingly restored, the statue has stood guard at St. Michael’s for more than a century, serving as a quiet source of strength and hope for the thousands who pass by. Then, in 1997, the statue yielded a very old secret. As the heavy figure was being moved from the hospital’s Bond Street entrance to the new Victoria wing, someone noticed the word “Pietrasanta” chiselled on the back. Incredibly, this marble had come from the same quarry in Italy as the marble Michelangelo used in 1499 for his famous sculpture, La Pietà. So, how old is our statue of St. Michael? Who was the artist? How did it get to Canada? The answers remain a mystery. But we do know that our statue will always be a symbol of hope and healing for those who are touched by our hospital’s mission to provide compassionate care, just as the Sisters of St. Joseph first did all those years ago.
Charity: water…. A star of telling stories via social media Here, they use videos to tell a story… notice the imagery… not large groups of people, but photos of individuals or, at most, two people Hi, I’m Dave. I’ve been working here in Liberia, South Africa with my family for 24 years Videographer, Paul, sitting precariously on the spare tire on the back of a jeep… while it’s moving… to get a good shot Here’s how we celebrate halloween at the charity: water office
The Ottawa Hospital, in Ottawa Stories are everywhere: here Duke talks about how the hospital saved his life, and why he became a donor At the Ottawa Hospital the storytellers are cultivated in the same way donors are Guardian Angel program: visitors to the hospital can make a donation to the Foundation that honours a particular staff member Guardian Angels receive a special pin, and are recognized amongst their peers Guardian Angel brochures are in every waiting room and a request to ‘tell us your story’ is prominently place… almost every donation comes with a story
You can even tell stories in 140 characters Melissa Fleming is the official Spokesperson for UNHCR This screen capture shows a series of her tweets on March 30 th “ Driving through Tahir Square getting a revolutionary chill. Hopeful for Egypt” “ A group of pro-Bagbo youths put a tyre around a young man and burnt him alive” “ Take a deep breath before reading Fukoshima” Etc, etc. She is talking to our senses: smell, sight, hearing, touch….
I want to wrap things up by talking for a few minutes about gathering your stories. To me, this is a critical part of your success. The stories that will resonate the best, as I mentioned earlier, are authentic and real. The examples I’ve shown you are either first-hand or, were gathered by someone. And I have an assignment for you: I’d like you to write four stories – one page each – over the next four weeks. Just follow this one rule: make the stories about people. 1. Write the story of the people who founded your organization. 2. Interview your favourite donor about why she gives so often and has given for so long. 3. Interview the Chair of your Board and write a story about why she volunteers so much time and energy to the cause. 4. Write a profile a volunteer and talk about his enthusiasm for being a part of the good works done by your organization. As you’re writing your four short stories, make sure you answer the simple question WHY. Why did those people start your organization in the first place? Why does your donor give so generously? Why is your Board Chair so devoted to your organization’s work? Why is your volunteer so committed to his involvement with you? In my experience, answering the why question is the secret to a really compelling story.
This is your essential equipment… well, this and a box of kleenex If you don’t already have a digital voice recorder and telerecorder, go out and buy them right away. The device on the right is the telerecorder: it connects to both your telephone and recorder and allows you to record both sides of a telephone conversation. Always use a recorder: you’ll not have to take notes and you’ll capture everything you need Try to do your interviews by phone… you’ll get a better interview Write your questions down in advance… will help if there’s a lull in the conversation (I’ve got you started by providing a two page list of questions I use in interviews) But let the conversation go off on tangents… sometimes your best stuff comes out that way Like we’ve all been taught for when we make an ask, pause after you’ve asked to allow the response to come Don’t ignore the uncomfortable, tough questions… but warm the interviewee up before you ask them… chit chat about the weather does wonders to get the conversation flowing If the person begins to show vulnerability, don’t back up… go forward Don’t let them get away with generalities… Example “That was a difficult time for me.” respond with “how difficult?” “why was it difficult?” Look for specifics, details and examples Ask why! So pick up the phone! Call your favourite donor. Ask her if she’s got a half hour to talk with you sometime soon. Get her to tell you about herself. And write her story. You’re going to love it and your fundraising efforts are going to love it even more.
Storytelling (presented at IFC Online 2011) by Leah Eustace
Yellow Blue Orange Black Green
Red Yellow Purple Red Red Orange Green Black Blue Purple Green Blue Orange Your right brain tries to say the colour, but your left brain tries to say the word Left Brain versus Right Brain