Updated: Aug 23
Greetings, My name is Tara Perkins, and I am delighted to serve as a guest blogger for my friends at Team Kat & Mouse.
I have worked with Sharon (Kat) for years, and you cannot find better fundraisers and trainers then Team Kat & Mouse. My passion is the written word and how it can be crafted to share the story of your organization’s mission.
I have always played with words. I was an avid young writer. I played and plunked all day on my 1976 Smith Corona Galaxie Twelve Manual. Carrying the machine outside into the dry heat of the sunny SoCal summertime, I was perfectly content with a freshly mowed green lawn as a desk. On my trusty typewriter, I envisioned new lands, created languages and maps—I relished in creating characters and worlds all my own. I can still smell the ink and hear the mechanical keys stomping, leaving a dark blue imprint on my construction paper. I fell in love with storytelling. To this day, I am a storyteller. It is my actual business.
You might not know it, but you are also a storyteller.
If you work for an organization with a non-profit focus, you likely have some of the most compelling tales to share. There is a huge importance to telling your story.
Your story has the potential to attract donors and volunteers who are willing to sustain your narrative and contribute to your story by supporting your organization.
Most non-profits exist on donations and volunteerism—it is their lifeblood.
So, what is your story?
The words to your story can be found in your history, mission, those you have served, and your case for support, otherwise known as a donor prospectus. This powerful piece of collateral (e.g., a brochure or fact sheet) explains to your prospective donors why they should give to or volunteer with your organization and helps them understand your mission. It is your story. In addition to outlining your story in a pamphlet, every employee and board member should know your mission, history, and how your organization helps the community. Simply put: They need to be able to tell your story.
When I worked in development for a variety of non-profit entities, we would often joke with each other that we were professional askers—but we were actually storytellers for a cause.
I believed in those organizations and I was passionate about their mission. It was all I could do to help fortify their financial health so that they could thrive. One of those organizations was a nationally recognized jazz festival. The Festival was known for its amazing array of visiting musicians and quality concerts. Thousands upon thousands would move and groove to everything from blues to world music in a variety of theatres and city spaces. But, did the public know about our incredible educational programs? Children would get the chance to play in ensembles on the main street of town to a large audience—did folks know they practiced for an entire year to sport their instruments? Did community members know about our remarkable workshops that were held with renowned musicians and offered free of charge? Aside from the mainstay events, there was another part of the story to tell: It takes a lot of money to host free programs and to educate the future players and lovers of jazz, blues, and more. Ticket sales were simply not enough.
Once I reframed my duty and connected my love of storytelling to my non-profit development work, it was magic. Boom! That “aha” moment came over me. It energized me and propelled me forward into my pursuit of funds. There was just no way that the Festival was not being brought up in all of my conversations. I would regale friends and peers with stories about the youngster-turned-star-musician who had participated in the Festival’s workshops. Grabbing a steamy hot cup of coffee in the winter on the way to the office, trudging through snow and ice, I was inspired to talk to strangers about the Festival.
From that point, I found ultimate confidence and interest in telling our story and how the Festival was special and vital to the community. We hosted annual tourists who would visit the state and spend much-needed funds, and we were shaping the next generation of jazz lovers. Drawing on the Festival’s colorful history—I mean, this Festival hosted Ella Fitzgerald! It offered kids and adults alike the opportunity to be up-close to and learn from superstars like Sonny Rollins, Mavis Staples, Wayne Shorter, Dave Brubeck, Sharon Jones, and many more. I shined a bright light on the myriad ways the Festival helped the community, discussed future goals, and shared marvelous moments from the past. I told our story to everyone!
I was no longer simply reporting to the office, making calls, scheduling meetings to ask for money—I was giving my audience a compelling reason to support the Festival because I was actively engaging them in our emotional story—and they found their place in that story. They felt invested in the mission. I gave them a reason to have a stake in our work. I created evangelists who helped to spread the word about the Festival. I even gained volunteers!
The bottom line is:
You are a storyteller—it is your job.
Your non-profit organization depends on you to tell its story.
Trust me when I tell you that people are waiting to hear your story.
People are waiting to help you write a chapter.
I look forward to reading your story very soon.
By, Tara Perkins | 10-2021
Reach out to me or to nonprofit consultants
Team Kat & Mouse