People as Active Agents of Change
Compelling & Motivating Nonprofit Stories
From Rockefeller Fdn Report
* Interview Do’s *
• Be comfortable
• Use non-verbal affirmations
• Ask open-ended questions in the right way:
“Paint a picture of…”
“Help me understand…”
“Would you describe for me…”
“Tell me more about…”
• Ask questions interesting to interviewee
• Be curious
• Be patient
• Prep questions (along interview arc)
• Test sound equipment
• Record room tone/ambient sound
• Avoid distracting noise
• Situate subject for best light & background
• Get their permission
• Check the recording
• Ask interviewee if you forgot to ask something
• or if they have anything to add
• Thank them
• Look & listen again on the way out
for good images & sounds (b-roll)
* Interview Dont’s *
• Say “uh-huh” or “um” or other verbal affirmations
• Ask Yes/No questions
• Interrupt unless you’re prepared to throw away
• Turn off the recorder too early
• Be shy – this is your only opportunity!
* Top Interview Tips *
1) Be comfortable
2) Ask Good Questions
3) Ask Good Questions the Right Way
4) Keep your mouth shut
1. Prep Equipment & Space & Self (5 mins)
2. Interviews (10 mins)
3. Listen back/ Feedback (10 mins)
Questions to Help You Ask for a Story
• Tell me about a time when… (e.g. something/someone was helped;
something happened to change things) What happened during that
• Tell me about your proudest moment in/with this organization. How
did it happen?
• Tell us about an aha moment—when you understood what is
possible in this work…
• Future Story: Tell me the story of my donation/grant, about how I will
• Challenge: What specific challenge did you face? What was
challenging about it? What was at stake for you (and anyone else)?
• Choice: How did you engage with the challenge? What was the
specific choice you made? Why did you make that choice? Did you
receive help to meet the challenge? How did it feel in the moment?
• Outcome: What happened as a result of your choice? What change
occurred? How did it feel? What hope can it give us? Why did it feel
that way? What did it teach you? What do you want to teach us?
Contact us at Vermont Story Lab (vermontstorylab.org)
Barbara Ganley email@example.com
Jason Frishman firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Pike email@example.com
Meg Campbell firstname.lastname@example.org
hanks to Common Good Vermont & Vermont Community Foundatio
Prep: Ahead of the workshop, I’ll send an email asking them to ask one question they hope to have answered by the end of the workshop. And I’ll be asking them to fill out a quick survey about the kinds of oral stories they have used in their org and to what success (and any links they have to share).
This is a ten-minute exercise plus five minutes for debriefing: the aim is to get them up and moving and sharing stories (to get over any apprehension about their own skills), to feel the difference between sharing a personal story and an org. one, to explore the storytelling moment—what happens to us as we tell a story to someone we do not know, and what happens when we listen to a story. The debrief will draw out observations and move to slides #4 - 24, the presentation/discussion of why we tell stories and how (focusing on moving the heart, stirring the mind, and inspiring action). Slides 2 & 3
Finish by 9:20 at the LATEST.
Why does story work on us? Work FOR us? Evolutionary biologists, neuroscientists and their findings. Slides # 4 - 7. Human voice as bedrock of story. Think of poetry and breathing & walking.
I won’t show this, but will make mention of it. Slides # 8 - 19 zero in on the what and hour of story - its arc, its elements & why they are essential. 12:25
Let’s turn to the specific case of nonprofit stories
People as Active Agents of Change
Compelling & Motivating Nonprofit Stories
From Rockefeller Fdn Report
Google’s version in their internal story work: Care, Do, Impact
Slides #20 - 24 a little fun with common storytelling mistakes.
Revise as a group.
No message/idea — There’s no there there.
Who’s supposed to listen and what should they do as a result? 9:30
Exercise: Jot down attributes of what makes a great gift. (Another way in to thinking about stories — I find it essential to keep them thinking about why story, why story, why story beyond the first layer of marketing into the heart of how they meet their mission goals (and marketing is NOT a mission goal).
Exercise Part Two! How to see our sharing stories f2f as gift-giving. (Same attributes apply —now think about the storytelling your org has done in the past — has it viewed its stories as gifts?)
Here they come up with a list — I’ll fill in the slide as they speak (or one of you will).
body language, facial expression, eye contact
What is it about us humans that makes the oral storytelling moment so powerful?
LISTENING!! Efficiency is so lousy due to selective Exposure, selective retention, selective perception (Ayre, Clough & Norris)
Dynamic of expectancy
Did you feel some of this as you were listening?
How we break through and make our stories and our oral storytelling matter. 9:40
A note on framing the story (before we get to another story sharing exercise) Slides 41 & 42
Have them retell one of the stories they heard, with the lessons in mind. Debrief: what happens in the telling of someone else’s story? Trying to tell it with purpose? 9:50
Return to your original question. What is stirring for you. What new questions do you have? 10:00
Another way to look at this is as the narrative arc of the project itself. It IS a story. Slides # 36 - 40 drill down into this chart — so important!
What’s your goal, your big idea you want to convey through the story?
How do you know? (Goals must come up first)
Exercise in Small Groups
Scenario: You work for a nonprofit that somehow has a connection to your local County Fair and you’ve been assigned to create a story project about the fair —
Decide on a GOAL and an AUDIENCE.
Which of these stories would you tell — why? Volunteers to come up and tell story on the spot (one each). The rest of us become the target audience and give feedback. Or…. we could have each group read their hooks. 10:30
When and why — super quick summary
NOTE — We will practice either Informal Conversations OR Donor Pitches. We won’t have time for both. Each exercise takes close to 30 mins
You meet someone you know in the grocery store. they want to know about your org
Exercise: Set-up —- You are your org’s best ambassador. You’re in the local grocery store and someone you really want to get involved in the org (you decide why) comes up to you and asks you about your org. You have 2 minutes to convey your goals through a story (remember to frame it). We’ll do this exercise in pairs (someone new). Record these! Listeners role play the desired audience. Debrief. 5 minutes to prep & practice story (you’re in the grocery store, after all); 5 minutes to tell both stories; 10 minutes to listen to recording and discuss ; 5 minutes debrief 11:00
10 - minute BREAK 11:10
I’ll share this story with them:
Last week, I received a last minute call from a lawyer supportive of the ACF to be at a Old Timers and Pensioner's meeting because the group was disbanding and wanted some place to spend their $35,000. I was faced with a group of retired miners who didn't understand that as a 501c3 they could not divide the money amongst themselves. After the legal issue was resolved, the discussion began as to where the money should go....some wanted to send it to a charity out of town. So...I told them a story. I told them about my Dad working on the hill for years, how he loved this community and wanted to give something back; how he would have enjoyed being in their boots and have the opportunity to give. I also brought up the Clark heiress and wouldn't it have been wonderful if Mr. Clark would have started a foundation in Anaconda years ago?Anyway...the story telling worked its magic and the entire amount was given to the ACF.
Essentially the same Exercise as Informal Conversations though we’ll focus more on the framing & have them practice a three-sentence version, a six-word version as well.
Name the enemy/challenge
Show promised land
Identify obstacles and how you’ll overcome them w/donor’s help
DRAW the story
Story I can share if I am guiding this part of the workshop & a couple of slides on community-based story circles (slides # 49 & 50). Otherwise Jason will come up with his own way to work through the next 30 minutes. Ending at 11:35.
“At one of the first story circles hosted by two new story-circle facilitators, an event with local food as its theme, one of the hosts was clearly amazed and moved by a story one of the elders told about years ago routinely baking some 45 loaves of bread a week to feed her large family. The next day, the facilitator found a loaf of freshly baked bread waiting for her in her car, a gift from the teller. They had not known one another before that day.”
I will mention Story Performances and how they can be used but not focus on them.
What are the first words that come to mind when you think of presentation & speech?
The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public. — Anonymous
until you stand up to speak in public. — Anonymous
Audience members in presentations (Heath Brothers)
A brief look at the importance of visuals in our presentations. Lessons?
Hopefully we can skip this exercise.
Play a quick round of pechaflickr. 11:50
Notes for them:
Viz supplements not repeats words
Start off with a great story.
Memorable end. Takeaway. Audience audience audience.
To prep: Stride around (back stage), stand tall, stretch, breath
Listen to this recorded story. What’s different; new? 12:00
Taking a look at Recorded Story Projects
Presenting your recorded stories — discuss the intros/image — how do you get people to listen?!
Projects — quick tour
Sense of co-presence
More intimate if just audio than with video — can repurpose! Ot
Challenges — Whose story and who gets to tell it — ethics. Here’s where Helen comes in for 10 minutes.
Mock Interview & Debrief (10 mins)
Interview Do’s & Dont’s — 5 mins
Heart in the trees
A radio reporter is covering the inordinate failure of family farms. He gets the standard story in the can, the same interviews on tape as
everyone else who had done the story. It’s a long-term issue, and it seems everyone has done the expected story. But just as he leaves
the farm — with much of the stereotypical story template in his mind — he notices a few remaining oak trees that once shaded the farmer’s
long driveway. The reporter goes back to the farmer and proceeds to find the heart of the story. The reporter learns that the farmer
had been cutting down his grandfather’s majestic stand of old oak trees for heating wood, just to survive the winter. As if by magic,
the reporter creates a poignant story, based on the imagery of those giant oak trees, the metaphorical pillars of family, strength and
fortitude. The specific facts necessary to set up the issue — how many farms were failing and why — were loaded in the story introduction by the host (and could be done as a sidebar), as a caption would give context to the emotion captured in a photo
Exercise: Come up with three questions to interview one another about an a-ha moment in their work. Record.
We’ll do this as a full group (5 mins) — Come up with our project goal & audience. Decide on whom to interview and what our topic is. Three - five questions to help reveal the story.
25 mins —Full group debrief 5 mins
Won’t show (they have in hand-out)
“During a story-interviewing training in one of the pilot communities, for example, we interviewed a town elder-one well known for his strong political views and outspokenness at town meetings. Here on this evening, with good humor, he endured the bumpy questioning by the interviewers-in-training. What no one anticipated was how his telling of his stories of boyhood in the town would charm and captivate the group and reveal a side of this man many in the room hadn’t imagined. After the training, one new interviewer exclaimed that she had always viewed him as someone she really didn’t want to know—she knew enough, thank you very much, from his statements in town meetings. Hearing him tell his stories, laugh, engage with them around what he loved about this town shifted something for her. She realized that she had judged him unfairly and would never again view him—or anyone else in town—through such a narrow lens. His storytelling brought her face-to-face with her own biases and assumptions as it brought her into contact with his own heartfelt story about the way the town had changed over the years. “
You walk into your office tomorrow. What are you going to say about this? For your org, choose one project you think you want to try out oral storytelling in. Follow the sheet and come up with an oral story.