The Nonprofit Hero Factory

Episode 1: Our Story Begins… with Host Boris Kievsky

In this Episode:

In this first episode, host Boris Kievsky shares the goals for and personal inspiration behind this series.

Sharing his own personal story that brought him to this point in life, and why he now dedicates his time to helping nonprofit organizations.

Listen to this Episode

Boris Kievsky
Hi, everybody, thank you so much for joining me for the very first episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. I’m excited about where this adventure is going to take us. As each week I’ll be welcoming experts and thought leaders in the fields of nonprofit digital strategy. We’re going to be talking to them about various things from their strategies that they see working out there and that they’re helping their own clients or their organizations and act in the realms of online communications, marketing, fundraising, their attempts at creating greater efficiencies and maximizing resources, developing and delivering new programs. For example, right now, as I’m recording this, we’re in the heart of the COVID-19 lockdown and a lot of non-profits have had to adjust their programming very quickly, and just the way that they serve their clients.

Boris Kievsky
So things like that not just within the lockdown and pandemic mode, but throughout their organizational cycles, as well as finding ways to generate additional revenue. So, throughout all this, we’re going to be keeping an eye on storytelling and technology, the reason being, well, I believe that those are the greatest tools that you can use to really increase your reach your impact and make a better world for all of us. Me, My name is Boris Kievsky. And I am the chief storyteller and nerd for good at dotOrgstrategy, where I help organizations do just that harness those powers at the intersection of story and technology. The reason is, I am a geek at heart. And one of the guiding principles of my career has been the quote by Archimedes that if you give me a lever long enough a fulcrum to place it on I can move the world.

Boris Kievsky
Really that’s my goal. And I know that that’s the goal for all of you working in nonprofit, to change the world in some way. Well, for me, the fulcrum is storytelling and the lever. That’s technology.

Boris Kievsky
Well, why story? Instead of just talking about my own theories about it, I’d love to share a couple of quotes. The first is from Daniel Kahneman. He is a Nobel laureate in economics, but he’s also the father of behavioral economics and behavioral psychology. Along with Amos Tversky, they published a whole lot of papers that are really fascinating. If you’re interested in the subjects I highly recommend them. The quote that I’d like to cite though is Daniel said, No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story. In their work together, they realize that people don’t make decisions very logically. They tell themselves stories in their minds and based on those stories, they take action.

Boris Kievsky
The second quote is by Yuval Harare. Author of Sapiens a brief history of humankind. Yuval actually credits storytelling specifically as the reason for our not just survival but dominance on the planet. There were a lot of competing animals, a lot of competing humanoids, hominids, whatever you want to call them. Why did homosapiens survive and thrive and become the dominant life form? He says it’s because we were best able to tell stories. So we use those stories to bind ourselves in communities, whether they be family units, tribes, or global societies. We tell stories and based on those stories, we bond we trust each other, and we’re able to move forward. It’s a really powerful tool.

Boris Kievsky
Technology. Well, technology allows those stories to reach a lot further for one, they, also allows them to find the exact right audience that you need at any given time to support your cause. Right? There are billions and billions of people on this planet increasingly more of them have access to technology, whether it be on their smartphone or on their computer or tablet, whatever it is. And they may have different interests and different concerns, your organization might speak to a very small percentage of the population of the world. But if you find that percentage, even if it’s point 1%, well, that is a whole lot of people, millions and millions of people who are there with you ready to support you and go up your ladder of support to becoming champions for your cause, and of course, becoming donors along the way. So together, technology and storytelling can really I think, changed the world for good if used by nonprofits who have the right intentions at heart.

Boris Kievsky
So with that, I guess I’ll tell you a little bit more about myself and why I really believe in those on a little personal level. I’ll try to keep this brief so we can move on to the other things that I’d like to talk about today, I was born in the former Soviet Union a country that no longer exists in Ukraine specifically. So now Ukraine is an independent country, of course. But back then, it was the Soviet Union, a place where everyone was supposed to be equal. But as we like to say some are more equal than others. Fortunately for me and my family, my parents decided to leave the Soviet Union when they could, which was not an easy decision to make leaving behind everything that they knew and everyone that they knew and loved. I remember the day that I found out we were moving to America.

Boris Kievsky
I didn’t know anything about America. I was just five years old. My sister, however, was already in first grade at the age of seven. And I vividly remember when my father told both of us, told my sister specifically that we were moving to America. My sister in her school uniform still just home from school, sat down at the kitchen table, and started crying. She started begging my dad not to take us to America anywhere but America. Preferably not a capitalist country, but if a capitalist country at all, please, Daddy, not America. Well, my father, he shrugged it off, laughed it off, whatever my whatever you might call it. And he asked her why. Why are you so worried about America? And she said that in her books, and her teachers have explained that in capitalist countries, parents don’t love their children, that they cast them out in America specifically, they cast them out to dig through garbage bins for little scraps of bread, and that’s how children have to survive in America.

Boris Kievsky
Well, obviously that wasn’t true. But that was the story that they were teaching everyone and it was a powerful story that lasted with my sister for a long time. Fortunately, we did come to America and it is an amazing place. Where we have a lot of opportunities. But to get to those opportunities, it took me a long road myself. As you might imagine, moving to Brooklyn in the 1980s, in the heart of the evil empire era, as Reagan termed the Soviet Union at the time, was challenging. There were not a lot of Russian speaking kids in my class, or even in my school or my neighborhood. I barely spoke English of course, when I entered public school, with a name like Boris with big ears, I definitely look different. I sounded different, and I was the enemy. If you watched rocky four, if you watched Top Gun or Red Dawn, right, the Russians, the Soviets, they were the ones who were going to destroy America and entire the entire world.

Boris Kievsky
So naturally, a lot of kids were afraid of me because that was the story that they heard. I got challenged to fights a lot chased home by gangs. Literally chased home from school by teen gangs who, well, let’s just say they didn’t want to be friends with me. I was fortunate that I developed two really good friends, Charlie and David. Charlie introduced me to comic books and the world of heroes, people who can rise up above their station, people who can do amazing things despite any kind of limitation. That was a fantastic world to escape to.

Boris Kievsky
The other escape came from my friend David. David was a computer science nerd before there was such a thing. He by the age of 10 was already programming in assembly language. And he encouraged me to learn the same. So with my birthday money for my 10th birthday, and a lot of help from my parents. I bought my very first computer a TRS80 color computer model 2, with I think it was 16 kilobits kilobytes of RAM can’t remember now. Computers became my escape, I was able to not only create worlds for myself with David, but we were also programming ninja madness and other video games. I was also able to later find communities online with these BBS’s bulletin board systems or early websites or forums, whatever you want to call them. I was able to meet a whole lot of people outside of my block my area of Brooklyn, people who had similar interests to me intellectual interests, political interests, exchange jokes, and ideas with them files sometimes those were exciting. And the best part was, no one knew my name. Not my real name. Anyway, no one knew that I was a Russian kid. No one even knew my age.

Boris Kievsky
It became such a great escape for me that I was in love with computer science very early on. It took me to one of the top science and math high schools in the country and one of the top computer science programs in the country. were much to my parent’s chagrin, I got burnt out. So technology took me very far. But halfway through my sophomore year, I felt like something was lacking. I was curious about the human side of things, the qualitative side of the world. And I took a very sharp 180-degree turn and wound up in acting, and theater. I studied theater for three years and graduated with a BFA in theater, then went to London and got a postgraduate degree in acting in musical theater.

Boris Kievsky
All the while, I loved diving into characters learning what it’s like to be someone else, not me, wondering what makes them different from me and what makes them similar. And I witnessed the power that stories through live theater and then later in film and television could have upon a viewer, a willing participant whether it’s just sitting back on a couch or active in a show, or even participating in improv, how living vicariously through other characters and situations, we can expand our worldview, our perceptions, our preconceptions, our insecurities, even and our ignorance and expand our minds to include others as humans, not just as someone else.

Boris Kievsky
I fell in love with that aspect of things. I eventually moved out to Hollywood where I was doing a lot of acting, but also started writing and directing and really studying the Hollywood version of storytelling, right. This is a formula that had been perfected over 100 years. And I say perfected because while not every Hollywood movie is a blockbuster hit. There are enough of them they make trillions of dollars a year. around the world that I think it is safe to say they know what they’re doing. And what I discovered was that every Hollywood movie, most movies in general, follow a Hollywood formula. And I’ll be talking about that in future episodes no time, no reason to spend time right now delving into it.

Boris Kievsky
But when it came time to stop acting, and there were various reasons why one of them was most of the roles I was getting was what my mother affectionately referred to yet another Russian mafioso. When it came time to stop spending more of my money than I was making in making movies, including a lot of documentaries that I was working on. I figured out a way to combine the two passions, the two sides of my life, the qualitative and the quantitative, the computer science nerd, and the storyteller who loves engaging with people on a one to one and one to many bases. And I found a job with a nonprofit organization where I could do their storytelling online where I could capitalize on my skills on both sides of things and help them with their websites, their social media, their newsletters, whatever it might be to grow their presence. And I found this amazing that all of these things that I’ve been working on throughout my life had these practical applications that had additional benefits for people beyond me and beyond the organization.

Boris Kievsky
I, at that point, started taking on additional clients on the side, eventually converting my in house job to a consultancy that I still maintain To this day, and I’m very grateful for the organization. So, my goal with this show is to help everybody realize the potential and the power of those two, those two elements of my ideal Archimedes lever So, you’ll be seeing people on this on this show on this podcast, if you’re listening online, that are going to be talking to all of these different things, they might be leaders in technology or experts in helping you talk to your board, or in fundraising and development, or revenue generation, they might even just be behavioral scientists whose approaches can really help nonprofits shape their internal culture and their outward facing engagement and communications really excited a lot of the guests that are already lined up. But if you think that you might be one of the people who can really add value to obviously this audience that I’d love to help, then please come on over to NPHeroFactory.com and fill out the form to become a guest.

Boris Kievsky
If you’re just listening, I hope you’ll go to NPHeroFactory.com and join our mailing list. Check out the show notes every episode is going to have including this one, where I’ll have recommendations for some of the books and authors that I was just talking about. Some action steps each every each and every episode is going to have action steps that you can take by going to the website or just tuning in and jotting them down to get your organization moving forward to increase your impact and helping more people. That’s really I want to say today, I thank you so much again for joining me. And I hope you will join me for many, many episodes to come. And thank you most of all, for doing all of the amazing work you do to help my world be a better place and everyone’s world be a better place.

Boris Kievsky
Take care

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Why storytelling?
  • Why technology?
  • How do you combine the two?
  • What type of guests will you see in upcoming episodes?

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Boris Kievsky

Boris Kievsky

Chief Storyteller and Nerd at dotOrgStrategy

Boris is an entrepreneur, recovering filmmaker, and relapsed geek. As the the Chief Storyteller and Nerd for Good at dotOrgStrategy, Boris helps nonprofits harness the power of great stories amplified through the right technology to reach the right audiences, create meaningful connections, and activate the inner hero in each of them.