Storytelling Especially Important for Non-Profits

The percentage of consumers in the U.S. involved in a philanthropic cause fell from 60 percent to 53 percent between 2010 and 2012, the only country in the world to show a drop, according to recent surveys. At the same time, the number of non-profit organizations in the U.S. increased to an all-time high of 1.5 million.

In a weak economy, consumers have less time and money to put toward societal issues. Charity starts at home.

It’s mission critical for non-profits organizations to tell a story that resonates with and motivates potential donors and volunteers to choose to engage with them. There are many choices.

The most effective messages are clear, crisp and affect the head, heart and hands equally well:

  • Head — the message has to be strategic and focused.
  • Heart — the organization has to stand for something larger, more important than itself.
  • Hands — there has to be a clear and easy way for volunteers to engage.

Capture and tell your story well. It will affect what people think, feel, say and do when it comes to engaging with your cause and becoming a part of your story.



Strategies vs. Tactics: The Map and the Backpack

Companies often come to us saying things like:

  • We need a great-looking brochure.
  • Can you create a Facebook page for us? Everyone has one, and we need one too.
  • We want to be featured in the New York Times.

The challenge with each of these requests is that the company is already thinking at a tactical level. We encourage them to zoom out to first examine their overall strategy.

What is it they hope to accomplish? Is the fancy new brochure actually part of a larger effort to reach referral sources? Is a Facebook presence something they can strategically maintain for the long-run? How do they plan to leverage an article in the New York Times?

Each of these actions should be tied to a set of strategies and goals.

It’s sometimes difficult for companies to think at the strategic level, because tactics are easier to understand. They’re tangible, the actual real deliverables that people can see, touch and feel. But they won’t have an impact if they’re not anchored in strategy.

We like to describe it this way: Imagine your company is on a journey. One toward growth, profits and success. There are two things you need for that trek:

  • A map – your strategy, which tells you where you’re going
  • A backpack of gear – the tactics and tools that will help you safely reach your destination

Without knowing the map first, it’s pretty hard to pack the right gear. What if you had ice climbing poles and cold weather clothes, only to find out you’re heading for the tropics? Or, you pack water for a week, and then realize the journey will actually last a month?

The key is to make your map and your gear work together. That’s the synergy of strategy and tactics!


Integrating Employees into the Whole Organization

Every smart organization knows that, no matter the size of the organization, employees should wear many hats. This may seem counter intuitive, given that positions within a company typically have defined job descriptions. But by giving employees the opportunity to ‘work’ outside the box, employees have a greater sense of investment in the success of projects they contribute to, as well as the organization as a whole.

At Bottom Line, weekly staff meetings focus not on what each department is doing, but rather, the project we are working on. By focusing on the project, we bring several employees into the discussion, giving everyone ownership. Staff meetings are not a series of monologues! Every employee has the opportunity to discuss what component in the project they have contributed to, what was the result to their contribution, and what are the next steps.

When thinking about how you can integrate your employees into the whole organization, here are a few suggestions:

  • Consider the value of cross-department interaction and how it can be implemented. Do not be a silo. Silos are self-contained, stand-alone entities that have little, if any, interaction or knowledge with other areas within your organization. At Bottom Line, we use a project-based approach to break down silos. What can you use to integrate employees?
  • Think in terms of the end result. Develop a mindset of not what each department does, but what each department contributes.
  • Understand that your employees have multiple skill sets, not just those that they were hired for. Be proactive in seeking out those hidden skill sets and use them to both your employee’s and your organization’s advantage. By placing value on what the employee has to offer as a whole, you are fostering a stronger sense of ownership by the employee, as well as a willingness to go above and beyond the job description. At Bottom Line, it is not unusual for someone hired to do the bookkeeping to also write a blog post!