Hi there! I hope this week finds you well – the past few weeks have been exciting ones for us out here in Kansas City. Fall has been gracing us with some beautiful weather & beautiful colors, and after an insanely exciting season, our very own Kansas City Royals, long the underdogs in the MLB, are on their way to the postseason for the first time in 30 years! 🙂
I have to confess that prior to this season, I was something of a ‘fair weather’ fan of the Royals…I mean, get me a good group of friends, food, and a baseball game, and sure, I’d go, but I’d generally zone out by the 5th inning. Not this season. This season, I’ve been riveted to the wonderful story that is unfolding in my city. You see, this isn’t just about baseball – it’s about a community of people rallying behind a small group (the Royals) committed to changing the way we view our home team – and The Royals have done it wonderfully. How? By sharing their story AND making us a part of it. I know the names of the whole team, I see how they support each other, care for each other, and love this city. I see these things because The Royals understand how to tell a beautiful story.
And that’s what I want to talk about today – the five steps we can implement right away to beautifully share the story of our causes. You’ve got to be able to do this well if you want to speak into the heart of a prospective volunteer. The good news is – we’re all deeply committed to our causes, so we have the emotional ingredients, but emotion alone is not enough. You must be able to structure your story in a way that draws people in and calls them to action. Below I have a short five step guide that will walk us through the key elements of sharing a beautiful story. Combine this guide with your passion, and you’ll have a powerful recipe for recruiting awesome volunteers.
I should also note that I didn’t create these six elements – they were shared with me first by Donald Miller. Donald’s the author of a tremendously awesome book Blue Like Jazz and he’s one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever encountered. The steps I’m about to share with you are part of his work at his new company, Storyline which, for my money, is one of the best resources around for telling beautiful stories.
1.) Have a character. This doesn’t necessarily need to be one person – The Royals told a story with an entire team, but we got to know the people on that team. Salvadore Perez is our unbelievably amazing catcher from Venezuela who doesn’t let his heavily accented English stop him from rallying the team when it seems like all is lost. Or take the story of Terrance Gore, and his mentor Jarrod Dyson – Gore is relatively new to the team, younger, and probably one of the shortest players in the MLB. One of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen was when Gore, having just scored the winning run, was embraced by his mentor shortly before being embraced by the entire team.
2.) Share a problem that character encounters. In the case of the Royals, our problem was that we hadn’t had a postseason appearance since 1985. In the case of our non-profits, it is important that we use this step to create an emotional connection between the people we serve and the volunteers we hope to recruit into service. This can only be done by sharing a specific story of a problem encountered by one of our clients.
3.) Make your volunteer a ‘guide’ in your story. Your character has just encountered a problem – it is here that you want to openly share how your prospective volunteer can help them through. For example, I used to recruit volunteers into a refugee resettlement agency, so after I explained that refugees lack furniture, I showed them our warehouse of furniture and explained how they could help us furnish lives as refugee’s sought to create homes for their families.
4.) Give them a plan. You have a character, that character has a problem, and you’ve shown your volunteer how they can guide that character – now you need to explain to them exactly how they can do that. It is here that you need to get specific and lay out how and why you’ve designed certain volunteer roles. Show your volunteer that you have a clearcut game plan for helping them as they help others.
5.) Call them to action. I cannot stress the importance of this enough! Once you’ve told your story, and shown your volunteer how they can be a part of it, you have to call them to action! Don’t be afraid to go as far as saying things like: when do you think you can start helping our families? Or – which of these roles do you think would be the best fit for you? I know those might seem like high pressure tactics, but – you are committedto the families you serve, and if you’ve told a beautiful story – you shouldn’t be afraid to boldly ask others to become a part of it.
I’m looking very forward to watching The Royal’s story continue to unfold in a city I love, and I’m convinced that if we, as volunteer leaders, can learn effective storytelling, we can transfer our affection for our clients to every prospective volunteer that walks through our door.
Stay tuned on Friday as we explore several other resources for effective storytelling – for now, please join this conversation by answering the following in the comment box below: how have you told beautiful stories at your non-profit?