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You said WHAT?!?

Updated: Jul 12

You said WHAT

Imagine you are 25 years old and meeting your boyfriend’s mother for the first time. A little scary, right?

We had driven to Long Island for a beach weekend that would start with a family breakfast. This was a new relationship, but one that already had some red flags (conveniently ignored of course).

It felt like a big deal… this could be the real thing! We took the train from New York City and talked about the things we had in common… work, friends, grandparents in Florida, the adventures we saw in our future. It was exciting to be taking this next step together. His brother picked us up at the train station and all was good!

After the obligatory awkward hug in the doorway, he jumps in to ease the way.

“Mom, can you believe those are Amy’s REAL shoulders? She’s not wearing shoulder pads or anything!”

I wanted to sink into the floor. I think he meant it as praise. But I was mortified. After all… I was (am) a 5’7”, not skinny person, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt over a bathing suit in preparation for a day at the beach. And he had taken the first minutes in the kitchen of his childhood to point out my body to his 5’2”, tiny all over, dressed in linen, mother.

I took a minute (ok… 30 years) to process what was so upsetting. After all, I do have great shoulders!

My own body image struggles aside, the problem was that the introduction became about what made us different rather than what made us the same. Once the obvious difference was pointed out, we struggled to find common ground.

But - you may be thinking - what in the world do my shoulders and an ex-boyfriend’s mother issues have to do with non-profit leadership and fundraising?

The most important part of engaging donors, volunteers, and the community in the work of your non-profit is to tell them a story that is engaging and compelling.

One that makes them want to stand with you. We want to bring people along for the ride. All of our work - in the arts, healthcare, education, social services, environmental efforts - is about building a community of people who care.

And this storytelling can’t be successful if we start by sharing how we’re different.

I’m not saying that we should ignore (in relationships or fundraising) the differences that exist.

But I am saying that these differences shouldn’t lead the story. Because when they do it turns from mission fundraising to political rhetoric.

What can we all agree on:

  • This is a personal mission to me because…Can you imagine being in this situation?

  • This is how our mission reflects our shared values

  • This is how our mission feels good to you and makes a difference to the _______ (community, individuals, the environment etc)

  • This is a story about needs that we all share - how has the organization helped?

  • That working together can change the world–one person or one mission at a time.


-Learn to customize your story to who you are speaking with…In other words, don’t brag about being tall to someone who is small! If you are sharing your mission story with someone you know has particular interest in a certain part of your mission, share a story that highlights that!

-PRACTICE PRACTICE AND then—PRACTICE SOME MORE!! You should know your story cold including every possible way to customize it. If you do, the story will sound genuine and your listeners will feel included.

Remember, there is a difference between being able to pivot within your story and improvising.

Looking for the right Training, Tactics and Tools to your fundraising to the next step…Reach out today to Team Kat & Mouse. We are consultants to nonprofits with the goal of taking your team to the next level.

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