As a long-time nonprofit employee, I know how easy it is to become insulated from ideas and activities that don’t pertain directly to your own operations. Conferences are a great way to break out of that familiar box, so I went to MCON14 expecting to hear one or two things I’d never considered before.
Boy, was I wrong.
Attendees and I heard dozens of ideas and numerous ways they could be applied in our own organizations. Ideas we formerly would have dismissed as impossible could, in fact, work for us with surprising results.
One of these ideas addressed the next stage in storytelling. Nonprofits commonly hear that they need to tell stories rather than simply present a need or quote facts and figures. Well-told stories can make an emotional connection with an audience, and where our emotions are involved, our time, talent and treasure usually follow.
Many nonprofits use stories. But research on Millennials shows that this largest of all demographic groups needs more than a story. They need to experience your cause without actually being there. How can that happen?
I believe that you no longer will be able to tell a here’s-what-happens story and think you’ve done your job.
Instead, you’ll need to make sure you are telling a story in a way that keeps audiences rapt and makes them feel an emotion pretty strongly. “Jon walks five miles every day to bring water to his family” is sad, yes, but it’s not going to grab your audience by the shirt collars and get them to feel what it’s like to trudge five empty miles across the dusty, rocky dirt all alone, with no company except flies and the occasional shout or gunfire he hears in the distance, just to get to water that’s so dirty Jon can’t see his hands through it as he scoops up a wet drink for his parched throat …
And telling stories through video is almost a requirement for the next generation, no matter what the size of your nonprofit.
We were moved by some amazing stories at MCON. Those are the ones we’ll remember, and the next time we hear of these organizations, we’ll remember that we care. And our time, talent and treasure will follow.