The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 41

Training Your Nonprofit Board to Tell Stories for Fundraising, with Stephanie Minor

In this Episode:

Is your nonprofit board making the most of your stories to connect others to your work? We know the power of stories to build empathy, understanding and connection to others. It’s critical to fundraising and nonprofit success as a whole.

Your board is likely made up of intelligent, successful individuals who care deeply about your work. Chances are, however, their backgrounds are not in storytelling for fundraising. So how do you equip them with the knowledge and skills to share your stories with the world and raise more money for your work?

Stephanie Minor of NPO Centric helps nonprofits with capacity building and board training. She joins us on the show to share her strategies and best practices to help your board get on board with storytelling.

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:05.270] – Intro
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video, broadcast and podcast where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Da Ding!

[00:00:22.810] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. This week we’re going to, as many weeks, talk about storytelling, but from a different perspective. We talk about storytelling all the time on this show—how a nonprofit can and should present their stories to the world across their communications and fundraising channels. Today, though, we’re going to look at it through a different lens, and that is an internal lens. How your board, specifically, can get on board with storytelling as part of their commitment to your organization, to help you create more heroes for your cause.

[00:00:53.910] – Boris
To help us with that process, I’ve invited Stephanie Minor, the director of NPO Centric, itself a nonprofit, onto the show, to talk about how we can equip board members with the storytelling tools they need. Stephanie is a veteran fundraising professional, nonprofit executive and strategic development coach whose proven fundraising strategies, have won big grants and gifts for impactful nonprofit causes. Through her many publications and online courses, she teaches nonprofit leaders, fundraisers and founders the best practices from her career in leading and raising millions of dollars for nonprofits.

[00:01:26.410] – Boris
Stephanie is director of NPO Centric, as I said before, where she advances the work of nonprofits through capacity building and technical assistance. Stephanie describes her nonprofit superpower as focusing efforts and propelling success with straight talk, real life experience and contagious enthusiasm. I’m excited to have all of that onto the show. Let’s bring Stephanie on. Hi Stephanie.

[00:01:50.570] – Stephanie Minor
Thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:52.480] – Boris
Thank you for being on the show. I’m really excited to have you and happy to talk about the subject, which, honestly, I don’t know that much about. As someone who focuses on storytelling, basically, every waking day of my life, that’s not an area that I really delve into. So I’m really excited to discuss it with you and learn from you today. But before we do, I read your bio and your superpower. You sound pretty amazing. Tell us a little bit, what’s your story? How did you get here? And why are you doing what you do today?

[00:02:20.810] – Stephanie Minor
So I have been working in the nonprofit realm for about a decade. I worked at a homeless service provider, launched a capital campaign that was very successful. We were trying to raise $4 million, and we made it up to $5 million. So I’ve just been thrown into a lot of different situations and have had to figure things out for myself, done a ton of research, taken a ton of courses, taken things from the marketing world, and then weave them into the nonprofit world.

[00:02:46.980] – Stephanie Minor
And how I am where I am today is that when I was working in that homeless services provider, I entered a contest at the Regional Access Project Foundation. Like you said in the intro, I work for NPO Centric. It’s a program of that foundation. So we are a nonprofit ourselves, and they do an event called The Desert Fast Pitch because I live in the desert. I live in Palm Springs, California, area. And it was a Shark Tank-style, we stood on the stage, we talked for three minutes about our program and long story short, I won $22,000 for the nonprofit. And as I went through the experience, I said to my mother, “If the person who runs that program ever retires, I’m going to apply for that job,” because I saw just what a difference that program could make for nonprofits. Because we’re out here making stuff up as we go along a lot of the time. And we have a million hats on.

[00:03:37.060] – Stephanie Minor
And so I was so excited at the possibility of being able to help nonprofits. And so six months later, he retired. I interviewed, got the job. And here we are. It’s been an interesting ride, a fun ride. I love seeing nonprofits starting here and then growing and becoming sustainable.

[00:03:56.210] – Boris
That’s a great story. And congratulations on winning the competition and then setting your sights and achieving your goals there. That’s pretty incredible.

[00:04:03.310] – Stephanie Minor
It was fun.

[00:04:04.570] – Boris
Talk to me, then. Let’s focus in on what we want to get from you today, all the knowledge that I could possibly extract and share with our audience. That’s what I’m here to do. What’s going on in the nonprofit sector these days from your point of view? And specifically, of course, in terms of the boards and how they’re communicating and telling or not telling the stories of organizations, what’s happening?

[00:04:26.930] – Stephanie Minor
So I hear over and over again, a lot of problems between the board and then the leadership in the nonprofit. And as we know, people who are on the board, their heart is in the right place for the most part, they want to be there. They love the mission. They support the mission. They just may not have the same personality as leadership or they may not know where to start or what to do. Even the board members who work at banks—because banks have a policy, they have to put in a certain number of hours working with nonprofits—they want to be there. They get to choose what organization that they want to work with. Right?

[00:04:59.710] – Stephanie Minor
So I really have done a lot of talking to figure out where is the disconnect? Where is the disconnect? And what I see is that board members are not told from the time that they start with the organization, what is expected of them. We’re just out there, like I said, nonprofit leaders, founders, fundraisers, we’re busy. We’re just happy to have someone on our board. We scored a banker on our board or a lawyer or whatever doctor, whatever it may be. And then we have them on the board and what we don’t tell them, really what’s expected. And so they put their ideas out there and they may not always be in line with our ideas. And there’s twelve of them all with different ideas, and we’re all going in different directions and then feelings get hurt. People are rude, whatever that may be.

[00:05:45.090] – Stephanie Minor
So what I say is, we need to stop. It doesn’t matter if someone has been on your board for ten years, for one month, you have to let them know what’s expected. You have to. That’s the only way that we’re going to move past all of these bad feelings and all of the drama. And it’s a lot of drama. The board is in charge. The board is actually the real leadership of the nonprofit. They shouldn’t be in operations, but they have such a substantial role. How do we make peace? How do we help them tell our stories? How do we help them advance our missions? That’s what I’m seeing.

[00:06:17.150] – Boris
That’s really interesting, because I have worked, of course, with a lot of communications professionals, and I’ve indirectly, therefore, one step removed worked with boards or I’ve sent stakeholder surveys to them, but I hadn’t actually thought about it. And you’re absolutely right. Very few people are professional board members, right? They don’t have training in how to be a board member. They are professionals. They have their careers, they have their expertise, but they don’t know what is desired of them—never mind required of them—as a nonprofit board member.

[00:06:51.060] – Boris
And that’s something that a lot of I find communications divisions in nonprofits also have, which is not a lot of people have majored in nonprofit communications when they’re going into the role. Hopefully, if you’re lucky, they majored in communications in the first place or have experience. But oftentimes they didn’t even do that. They just want to come in and do good. Just like so many board members that you’re talking about, they want to come in. They want to do good for a cause that they care about, they don’t necessarily have the tools or the background to do so.

[00:07:21.840] – Stephanie Minor
Right. Yeah.

[00:07:22.910] – Boris
How do we get them on board? And specifically, then how do we get them talking about our organization and telling stories the right way? What does it look like when it works?

[00:07:37.730] – Stephanie Minor
Okay. So my first piece of advice—I’m going to start with advice—is to take a look at each of your board members and you as a nonprofit leader, professional, need to meet the board member where they are. So that means if you have eight people on your board, you’re going to have eight different approaches because they’re all different people, right? If you know that somebody is scared to death of fundraising, but it’s a requirement that they either give or get somebody to give or that they help with fundraising, you need to come up with ways to make it comfortable for them so that they can be productive so that they are not feeling nervous and stressed that they are having to fundraise at least they’re going to walk into it feeling comfortable, and you’re not irritated that they’re not doing what you want them to do, right? But you need to tell them exactly what that is. You need to take the time to have a conversation with them.

[00:08:27.150] – Stephanie Minor
And to me, the answer to a lot of these problems is to meet people where they are, and that’s not always easy to do, because guess what you have to do. You have to stop what you’re doing in our already busy days. Plan this out, have a conversation, think it through. And then the next big thing is to give them the tools that they need.

[00:08:44.950] – Stephanie Minor
Like you said, these are professionals. Or even if they’re retired, they don’t have what it takes to create these tools. If you’re going to ask them to post on social media, give them the graphics, give them exactly what you want them to say. If you’re going to ask them to go to a dinner and talk about your nonprofit organization, give them a story to share, make sure that they have their elevator pitch memorized, and they’re going to tell it a different way every time. And that’s fine. We need to let them know that’s fine. You just need to stick to the same highlights. So those are the answers. Meet them where they are. Let them give the way that’s best for them, their time, talent, treasure, and then give them the tools that they need to be successful, to tell the story, to share the message in a way that they are comfortable with.

[00:09:31.550] – Boris
So how do we do that? How do we train them? When do we find time? Especially, I would imagine, for a lot of organizations that are constantly strapped for resources, the biggest one being often money, but actually I would argue time, because we only have so many hours to do everything that we want to get done and have the impact we want. So if you’re talking about twelve different approaches to twelve different board members, that sounds really resource intensive.

[00:10:01.050] – Stephanie Minor
It does. I know. So here’s the bottom line. There are some things in your job, whether you work for a nonprofit or not, that have to be done. There are some things that you just have to do. This is one of them. You have two choices. If you’re struggling with your board, you could just continue to struggle. It’s never going to get better. You’re just going to wait it out till they get off of the board. But you don’t know. Maybe they’re going to stay, they get voted back on, or you can stop. Make a deliberate effort to stop and make this happen.

[00:10:30.560] – Stephanie Minor
And I hate it. I hate it. I hate that I’m saying these words to you, but it’s the truth. If you can just stop, gather everything, re-organize, get everybody their marching orders in a positive way. It will change everything. It will change the dynamic of your board. You’ll bring in other board members because they’ll see the enthusiasm of your board. It can reinvigorate everybody, including yourself as leadership. But it is you have to take the time to make it happen.

[00:10:54.440] – Stephanie Minor
And to start off, what you need to do is take a look at your board, go to the people who are kind of on your side, the people that you identify with. Get them on board with this plan, start off with them. They’re going to be a little bit easier, and you don’t have to do all of the work. If you’re lucky enough to have a director of development or somebody else, have them help as well. Everything doesn’t have to be on the CEO, executive director or the leadership. Let’s divide and conquer.

[00:11:19.710] – Stephanie Minor
And if you have somebody, if you’re lucky enough to have a really good communicator on your board, then you work with them, get the tools that they need and then have them kind of take this on for you. But the bottom line and again, I hate that I say it is, this is one thing. You just have to stop and make this happen. Otherwise you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve been getting.

[00:11:38.630] – Boris
So are we talking about setting times to speak with each one of them individually? Are we talking about activities that we could be doing at board meetings? Where do we find this time? And how do we structure it for most effective use?

[00:11:50.970] – Stephanie Minor
So I would say that what you need to do is start off with everybody at the board meeting. Okay. So just to make it simple, maybe set aside 10 to 15 minutes. Get the board to agree that 10 to 15 minutes, you’re either going to have a client come in and tell their story so they can absorb it. And then maybe the next board meeting staff is going to explain how to tell that story. Or if a client comes in, obviously, staff will have heard that story before, and then they give the board a one page document just saying, like, remember, this is the person’s name. This was their story. And this is how you’re going to share that information.

[00:12:23.220] – Stephanie Minor
So set aside 10 to 15 minutes at every single board meeting. And again, you have to stop and you have to make this happen. I say I’m going to do 20 things a day, and I only get three of them done. So we have to just make sure that the three that we get done are the most important things. And this is so important. So start there, get the board to buy in.

[00:12:41.660] – Stephanie Minor
And actually, what I have found over and over again is sometimes we’re expecting these board members to come into the board meeting and they’re there. They do their job, they pass the motions, they discuss things or whatever. But if you are not bringing clients in to share their stories, they get a little disconnected from the mission. So this helps in so many ways. Like I said before, your board is going to be reinvigorated. The clients are going to see they’re going to walk into a room of people who have their hearts open to them.

[00:13:05.790] – Stephanie Minor
Now, this only works with humans. It’s not going to work with a cat or a dog, but staff can still talk about those animals and show some pictures or whatever. Engage your board, and then they’re going to want to share that message. But I would start there. And then, like I said, get your ally on the board and then slowly work people in and you don’t have to do all this—you could do it over time or you could set aside—you’re going to set aside two good weeks and just make this happen. It’s up to you. Everybody’s individual. The bottom line is you have to start and you have to make this happen. It’s the only way things will change. The only way that you can teach them to share your message is to make sure that they understand what they need to do and then give them the tools to do it.

[00:13:45.170] – Boris
Okay. So I’m loving what I’m hearing so far. We dedicate 10 to 15 minutes each board meeting to having a client come in, some sort of… basically a live testimonial. For those of us meeting virtually these days, that’s totally fine. It’s even easier to bring them in on Zoom—

[00:14:03.110] – Stephanie Minor
Absolutely, yes. Yeah.

[00:14:04.370] – Boris
Or whatever platform you’re meeting. You might ask for permission ahead of time to record so that you could even have that available maybe for the board members and others to be able to play back later on and have it up there.

[00:14:15.922] – Stephanie Minor
Great idea.

[00:14:15.940] – Boris
It’s a great way to even build up your database or your inventory of stories and videos and everything else that you’ve got. So I’m really loving this idea. Once the board members have heard it, if I heard you correctly, you’re saying, then put it together into a one sheet for them so that they can go back and reference it at any time. Maybe they’re preparing to meet with somebody or going to a networking event. They kind of have that in the back of their minds as a little refresher so that they could reference it and talk about it.

[00:14:47.380] – Stephanie Minor

[00:14:49.070] – Boris
What happens if they don’t have these stories? Like how memorized should they have it? Obviously, you don’t want them to sound like they’re speaking words that aren’t theirs. But is there a chance that they might tell the wrong story?

[00:15:04.430] – Stephanie Minor
Yes. And that has happened, actually. But again, I would put that back on nonprofit leadership, and you all don’t hate me for saying that, but I’m just telling the truth. If we don’t let our board members know exactly what’s going on, they’re just going to make up what they think. So we need to make sure, for example, in the homeless service provider that I used to work for, something called transitional housing was going out of favor, and something called rapid rehousing was coming into favor. And we decided we were not going to do rapid rehousing because there were just lots of reasons. It took a long time to get the money or whatever.

[00:15:38.200] – Stephanie Minor
So one of the board members heard the word rapid rehousing and started telling everyone that that organization is now switching to rapid rehousing. Well, then it got back to leaders of the cities here or different places, and everyone’s in a panic, like, wait a minute, you guys are making this huge change. But it was up to us to make sure that you don’t just say what you heard in a meeting. We needed to make that a little bit more clear. So again, that was on us.

[00:16:02.030] – Stephanie Minor
I would not say that we want them to sound like robots in any way. And that’s again why it’s so important that you have these clients come in as often as you can to speak to them directly, because if somebody is telling me a story, there are certain highlights of that story that I’m going to identify with and what you heard from that story you’re going to identify with it a little bit different. Like, I’m a mother. So if the person speaking is a mother, I’m going to remember that.

[00:16:25.490] – Stephanie Minor
But you want to give—the tool you want to give to your board members is the facts. Let them tell the story that they heard from their heart, but just make sure that they have a little one sheet that kind of tells the facts and that they know how many people like that person you all are serving, or let them know how many people you serve a year so that they’re at the cocktail party and they can say like, oh, this nonprofit serves 8000 people a year. We help homeless, impoverished, because then they can connect to something that’s true. But then they can tell the story their way.

[00:16:56.530] – Stephanie Minor
Again, give your board members tools. I don’t care if it’s a copy post-it note, give them something that they can walk away with and look at later, videos. Give them graphics to post on social media. Make it easy for them to share the story the right way, the right way. You’re in control of what they’re getting.

[00:17:16.750] – Boris
So you’re talking about one-sheets, you’re talking about graphics to share on social media. And I’m kind of envisioning now almost a press kit that they might have access to at any given time. Is that what you’re talking about? Where there might be photos and social media posts and stories that they can pull from?

[00:17:32.750] – Stephanie Minor
Absolutely. So you can do this in many ways. You could have, like, I see some nonprofits, and I recommend that they always have a media page on their website. So when they’re sending out press releases, those press releases are held there, and then they also put pictures in there, right so that the press can come get the story and get it exactly how you want it to be told with the images you want. You don’t want them to go back and pull some images from ten years ago. You want them to use those images, another way that you can tell your story. That’s another story for a different day. But your board members can also go there, right?

[00:18:04.470] – Stephanie Minor
And then another nonprofit we set up like a Google Doc where development could put stories in there. They could put pictures in there. And then the board could just go in there and grab them, download them, share the story. Again, I love one-page wonders. Some board members right now are still a little bit older and they like paper. I don’t know how old you are, but I’ve been thinking we’re around the same age. I still sometimes like paper. I love the world of electronics. I love being online, but walking out with a piece of paper lets me like, I have something tangible that I can refer to and I can look back at and I can put in my pocket or my purse. If I’m going to network, I can be like, okay, what were those facts again? What was that lady’s name who came in or what are we calling her? Because maybe we’re not calling her by her real name. Make it easy. Just make it easy.

[00:18:47.970] – Stephanie Minor
And then, if you’re going to ask them again about social media, some of them are not even on social media, but some of them are. They have huge networks of people who are at the same level of life, who maybe are wealthy or maybe who are interested in volunteering or all of those things. We are missing out on getting all of that time, talent and treasure by not making it easy for our board members to share it with their network. It will just change everything. It will just change everything, and it will change everything pretty quickly. It’s pretty amazing. When the board gets reinvigorated, it’s amazing what can happen. Capital campaigns I raised $5 million, can happen.

[00:19:24.410] – Boris
So it sounds like, again, we’re meeting them where they are, whether they need something physical and a printed piece of paper or postcard or whatever it might be, or they need it digitally or both. Personally, actually, I’m of the generation where most of my peers prefer paper still or somewhere in between. Whereas ever since I was in my 20s or even earlier, I have had an aversion to paper. I am a digital-only kind of guy. I get mail and I put it straight in the shredder. I’m just that kind of a digital nerd.

[00:19:58.880] – Stephanie Minor
I’m glad that you’re saying that, because that leads me to another point. When we are thinking about how we’re going to share our missions, really, in any way, not just in fundraising, but sharing stories in any way. We have to stop and take a moment and remember, not everybody sees or experiences the world the way that we do and what makes you a good marketer or storyteller or whatever is to tell stories. Share your information in ways that touch the person who learns best by hearing, the person who learns best by seeing, the person who learns best by touching, the person who learns best by experiencing.

[00:20:37.670] – Stephanie Minor
You can’t just give one way. You have to give in all ways so that everybody who sees and experiences the world in a different way can feel your message the way you want them to feel it, and you’ll just be more successful if you can do that. And if you make it that a habit, that sounds again like a lot of work. But if you make it a habit, it’s not. You can turn… Let’s say that you did a video. You can turn that video into a social media post. You can turn it into a one-sheet wonder. There’s so many different things that you can do. You can share it on Pinterest one way, share it on Facebook another, share it on LinkedIn another, and it’s just still one piece of content. But you’re just tweaking it to touch everybody in the way that they learn and the way that they accept information so that you can be successful.

[00:21:22.010] – Boris
It’s very similar to what we do. For example, with the show, we record the video, we then pull the audio out for podcasts. We do a summary and show notes and takeaways and then post on social media and try to get it out to anybody meeting them where they are and modifying the format in whatever way is appropriate for that medium.

[00:21:40.770] – Stephanie Minor
Yes, I love it. That’s the best way to do. Again, if you guys only think of me for one thing, remember the phrase, meet people where they are. If you do that everywhere. If you got a teenager and they’re acting crazy, meet them where they are. Don’t try to put where you are on them. You’ll have more success meeting them where they are, meeting your aging parents where they are, seeing where they are. Same thing with the clients. Sometimes clients can be problematic. Take a second and stop your nonprofit. Stop and say, like, okay, where are they? Why are they acting this way? Oh, you know what? I forgot that they were just sleeping on the street three days ago. I’m coming with my executive director voice saying, you have to follow the rules, but I need to say, okay, why don’t they want to follow the rules? Where are they? And then I can approach them in a much different way and I can reach them that way. And it’s effective for all parts of your life.

[00:22:33.330] – Boris
So assuming now we understand and hopefully because you’ve explained it really well, I think most of us by now understand the importance and even the modalities in which we can present our stories and share them with board members so that they can then share them. I’m wondering, though, how many of these stories should a board try to learn or have access to? I feel like at some point there might be overwhelm and even confusion, if there are too many stories going on. How do we navigate that? What’s the fine line to walk?

[00:23:10.180] – Stephanie Minor
So if we’re agreeing, if you have a board meeting, some people only meet four times a year. Some people meet six times a year. Some people meet once a month. Right? If you can have that quick client story, because here’s the thing. If you have three clients come in, I’m a board member, and I’ve gone to three different board meetings. I’ve had three clients. The first one, I didn’t connect with them. I’m going to maybe remember it and mention it, but the second one. Oh, my God, I love that story. And the third one. Yeah, I like that one too, but I’m going to focus on that one that touched me. So you have to give them variety without being crazy. Don’t bring in five stories in the board meeting, bring in one. And then also, like I said, if you have the media page on your website, if somebody wants to share some information, they can go get the information there.

[00:23:50.300] – Stephanie Minor
And if you have somebody who’s a very good communicator as a nonprofit leader and founder, fundraiser marketer, you should be sharing stories. Your development team needs all the stories that they can get. They should be sharing those stories on social media. And you can let your board know like, hey, go check out our Facebook page because we always have new videos. We always have stories there, find what connects with you. The story is going to be easy for you to tell because everybody has their own biases. And so if they’re telling a story about, you know, they have a bias towards homeless men, but they have a softness for homeless mothers, then they’d be better off telling the story about homeless mothers instead of us forcing them to tell about homeless men.

[00:24:27.540] – Stephanie Minor
So again, you have to give them tools to find resources based on where they are at. If they are someone who doesn’t really want to do this, they’ll listen to the one story at the board and at least at the board meeting and at least they’ve got that. If you’re somebody who wants to share the message far and wide and it’s going to post on social media every day, then they should be able to go get stories on social media or go get stories in that Google Doc or go get stories from your media page again, just making it available for everyone, not forcing anything on anyone but having consistent stories. Like I said at that board meeting year round, it will just reinvigorate everything and give them resources to spread the message far and wide.

[00:25:07.900] – Boris
I can imagine that organizations that have multiple programs, which so many organizations do, they’ll want to vary it up and bring in one meeting, somebody, a beneficiary of one type of service or program. Next meeting, it might be a different one and so on and so on. And eventually I think if I’m understanding you correctly, the board members will connect to the ones that they connect to, and those are going to be the ones that they’re going to carry in their back pocket, if you will, for whatever the occasion is. I would imagine you could also even send out a survey ahead of time to your board, which kind of story you’re interested in from what program or tell them ahead of time. Maybe we’re really making great strides in this particular program or this particular area. So we’re going to bring in somebody to talk to about that. And prime the pump that way a little bit as well.

[00:26:00.100] – Stephanie Minor
Absolutely. Yes. Yes. Yes. So you definitely want a variety of your programs. You don’t always want to be like the homeless service provider. I’m just using that as an example over and over again. You don’t always want to tell stories about someone being fed from the street, right? If you have a children’s services center, you need to talk about that. If you’re getting people jobs, bring someone in who’s talking about that. And just a tip for you all, make sure that you have a backup for the stories, because sometimes clients flake, sometimes they get scared at the last minute.

[00:26:29.470] – Stephanie Minor
So if you’re promising your board that you need to make sure that you have that available. So what that might mean is you don’t want to have two people waiting outside and only one gets to go into the board meeting to talk, but have another medium ready say, like, okay, this month we’re going to share the story via video, because if Sally didn’t show up, we want to keep the momentum going, and it’s on us the staff to keep that momentum going. So have a video in your back pocket or have a slide show of pictures and just have somebody just narrate it so that they can have it, because that does happen, and that has happened. So make sure that you have that backup in some way.

[00:27:03.080] – Boris
That’s great advice. I’m so glad you brought that up, because I’ve also been in on meetings where clients have been brought in, and they weren’t necessarily prepped on storytelling. They didn’t know how to best present their story, and sometimes they would meander or go on too long or miss some really salient points. You and I actually have this in common where we help organizations figure out how to extract those stories, how to create and capture those stories. So I definitely recommend organizations prep all of their potential storytellers and have them go through a process of, well, how do we tell our story?

[00:27:40.830] – Boris
Maybe—what I usually advise organizations to do and help them put together, are little story surveys where you can send out a questionnaire to several different people within a certain program or demographic. However, you want to break it down, have them all fill it out. I actually did this with an organization a couple of years ago where we were doing a big campaign, and we wanted a few different types of stories. We sent out 10 different people, each type of story, they all filled it out.

[00:28:09.140] – Boris
And then we were able to select which one we wanted to film first and second and third, and then they already knew the structure. We could even go over it with them ahead of time because it was all structured in that survey, and they were much more prepared when it came time to shoot the videos on the day. And I totally love that you said, have that video already ready, because that’s a great way to rehearse someone’s story. You capture it, and just in case they don’t show up or they have an internet issue or whatever it is, you can say you know what? Unfortunately, so and so wasn’t able to make it. But here is the video version of that story. I love it. That’s fantastic advice.

[00:28:45.090] – Stephanie Minor
And then your board will be so impressed that you captured the video—that you have a—that’s impressive to them. And then one thing that you said that I’d like to go back to, if you find that you have a client there who gets in the room, they were perfect outside or when you met with them and they get in the room and they start freaking out or they forgot something, be the person in the room who’s like, yes, thank you so much. Or if they start talking, feel free to interrupt them and be like, you know what? Can you… Remember when you told me about your son Brad did this or whatever. Tell the board about that. And so you can direct them and they’ll be so excited, like, oh, yeah. And then they’ll start telling the story, and then everybody just gets engaged. Don’t let them meander.

[00:29:22.500] – Stephanie Minor
Remember, we want this to be a positive experience for the client. We want them to walk into that room and realize that these people are volunteering their time, treasure and talent. They care about me. They care about my life. They care about what’s going to happen to me. We want them walking and feeling that way, and we want the board still liking the client and not like, oh, when is he going to be quiet? So feel free to lovingly, gently interrupt them and get them back on track if you need to.

[00:29:46.530] – Boris

[00:29:47.120] – Stephanie Minor
That’s important.

[00:29:48.690] – Boris
Stephanie, this is all great stuff. We’re going to break it all down step by step. Everything that you and I have talked about today in our show notes. I do like to ask if our guests have any tools or resources that they recommend to others… to organizations that might just be starting or want to get further down this road. Is there a tool or a book or anything that you recommend that they go check out?

[00:30:11.220] – Stephanie Minor
So I love the book “Little Book of Boards” by Erik— I’m going to say his name. Hanberg. Hanberg Erik, I’m so sorry. I need to meet you one day so I can pronounce your name the right way. It’s very good. It’s going to tell the board members what they need to know about their roles. I’m going to provide some resources as well. I don’t know if you want to talk about that now or wait a second. Let me know.

[00:30:32.490] – Boris
That’s totally fine. I usually ask what your call to action is, and I’m happy that you have some resources that you want to provide, and we’ll be happy to link to those. What would you like our audience to do? What are the resources you want them to grab?

[00:30:45.550] – Stephanie Minor
Okay, so I’m going to provide a free resource that is going to help you with board orientation. It’s a checklist that’s going to tell you every single thing that you need to know with some good samples in there so that you’re setting people up for success. And just a reminder, even if someone has been on your board, when you’re coming to this point and you’re saying like, okay, enough I have to reset even though someone’s been on your board for a while, run them through the orientation to make sure that they understand the expectations. I’m going to make that a little bit easier for you.

[00:31:12.130] – Stephanie Minor
And then my other call to action is just to check out the NPO Centric—it’s website. We have a membership program there that’s pretty inexpensive where we give tons of tools. We’ve already got job descriptions written for you. We’ve got samples of fundraising appeals. We’ve got social media templates that you can have. I design them in Canva, and you can just quickly change the colors to make them your own. We tell you how to get a grant we literally have videos that will walk you step by step how to fill out a Walmart grant or prospectus from a funder, how to write an email sequence like a welcoming email sequence to someone who signs up on your website and then another one specifically for donors. You do not need to think of all this by yourself, and that’s what I learned along the way. And that’s why I’m so excited about the job that I have now.

[00:31:55.630] – Stephanie Minor
When I was in leadership at nonprofits… I don’t want you to tell me theory. Give me something so that I can get this done and keep it moving. I’m going to learn as I go. But don’t tell me something, like show me something. Give me a resource. And that’s what we have for you as part of the NPO Centric membership. So I highly recommend it. There’s also a private Facebook group. So you’re in there talking to people who are in the trenches with you, and you would not believe the great ideas and collaborations that come out of that group. So that’s what I have to offer. And I’m just excited to share what I was talking about today, and I hope that some nonprofits will follow this and report back to you about how it changed everything for their board and for them as a leader.

[00:32:37.750] – Boris
Yeah, I would love to hear from any organizations that check out this episode. What is it that you found most interesting? Are there any key points or ideas that sparked in your mind as you were listening to Stephanie talk about these things? The NPO Centric website is a great resource. I’ve checked it out. I’m not a member, but I’m sure that the membership offerings there are fantastic as well. So hopefully people will check those out as well.

[00:33:02.900] – Boris
Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us today. Sharing your knowledge about a side of storytelling that I haven’t really focused on before but makes total sense. And I’m so glad I’m aware of it now.

[00:33:13.780] – Stephanie Minor
Thank you so much for having me. You do such a great job, really. Thank you for putting out this podcast. It’s so helpful.

[00:33:20.430] – Boris
Thanks. And thank you for everyone who has joined us once again today. I hope that you did get some valuable insights, some strategic tips. Like Stephanie said, I also like to have everything as clear and actionable as possible. So we often start with theory, but we get down to the essential steps that people need to take, things that they need to know and consider so that they can take action so that they can really improve the way that they do things and activate more heroes for their cause. Thank you everybody, for joining us, and I hope to see you again next week. Bye-bye.

[00:33:53.070] – Outro
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • Board members join because they care about your cause, but they likely don’t know where to start or what to do. They come with their own ideas which may not be inline with leadership, which can lead to conflict (4:26)
  • Stop the cycle. Meet board members where they are. Don’t assume or expect them to know what needs to be done or have the skills to do it. (7:37)
  • Give them the tools they need to tell your stories (8:45)
    • Social media posts text and graphics
    • Specific stories they can share online or at a dinner
    • An elevator pitch for the organization
  • Start by getting your board on board with the plan to train them. Identify those likely to agree with the plan and start with them. Bring in the people on your team who can help as well. (10:54)
  • Begin the training at a board meeting with everyone in attendance (11:51)
    • Get the board to agree that you’re going to take 10–15 minutes at a meeting to share a story, preferably from a client who can come in (in person or virtually) to tell their story
    • At the same meeting or the next one, you can have your staff explain how to best tell that story.
    • Put together a one-pager on the client’s story to make it as easy as possible to learn and share
    • Keep this meeting time set aside on a regular basis
  • Ask for your client’s permission ahead of time to record that story as part of the meeting so that it can be played back and used later. This is a great way to build up your databank of stories. (14:04)
  • Board members will identify with and focus on different parts of the story that resonate with them. The one-sheet is there to help them access the facts of the story and the organization as a whole, like how many people you are currently serving like that one client whose story they’re sharing. (16:02)
  • You can even assemble a press kit for each story, including photos, post copy suggestions, etc. This could be in a shared folder, or Google Docs. (17:16)
    • Keep in mind that some board members might still prefer hard copies, so have that available to them, too.
  • Different people connect to stories better through different modalities. So the more ways you can present your stories across different media, the better. (20:00)
  • How many stories should you share with your board? The key is to share regularly and keep in mind that different board members will resonate with different clients and stories. Giving them options that they can then refer back to, is your best bet. (22:51)
    • If you have multiple programs or multiple types of clients, try to bring in different story types for your board to hear and possibly connect to.
  • Sometimes clients can’t keep their commitment to speak to your board meeting. Have a backup option. If possible, record the story ahead of time on video, so that if the client can’t make it to the meeting, you can play the video instead. If you don’t have a video, have a slideshow ready. (26:18)
    • You can also prep the storyteller and help them rehearse the story ahead of time.
    • You can send out a story questionnaire to clients ahead of time that helps you identify the stories and helps frame the story structure for the storyteller.

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Start implementing!

    • Check out NPO Centric’s website for their membership program that can give you a lot of tools to help your nonprofit.
    • Download Stephanie’s Board of Directors Manual Template

About this week’s guest

Stephanie Minor

Stephanie Minor

Director, NPO Centric

Stephanie Minor (she/her) is a veteran fundraising professional, nonprofit executive, and strategic development coach whose proven fundraising strategies have won big grants and gifts for impactful nonprofit causes. Through her many publications and online courses, she teaches nonprofit leaders, fundraisers and founders the best practices from her career in leading and raising millions of dollars for nonprofits. Stephanie is Director of NPO Centric, where she advances the work of nonprofits through capacity building and technical assistance.

Connect with Stephanie Minor