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Why Nonprofit Leadership & Storytelling Are Critical To Grow Your Nonprofit. Nonprofit MBA Podcast 3.12

Summary: In today’s podcast episode, Stephen Halasnik and his Guest Pam Sherman discuss why nonprofit leadership & storytelling can help grow your nonprofit. It is no secret that in order to have a successful, high functioning organization your nonprofit management and leadership have to be great. In addition to that, the messenger behind your organization also plays a large role in nonprofit success. The importance of having compelling stories and strong nonprofit leadership can help take your nonprofit to the next level.

Nonprofit Storytelling: Personal Stories to Impact Your Audience

Maybe you have heard of how good storytelling can have a positive impact on nonprofit organizations. Perhaps your nonprofit already implements telling stories, or has considered it but isn’t utilizing this technique to reach its full potential. When we talk about storytelling, anyone can tell a story, we listen to stories all the time. However, when it comes to nonprofits, great stories are those that convey a message in relation to the organization’s mission.

What makes a story a “good” story? A good story is one that illuminates the speaker’s work in the organization, and untimely how it can connect to the targeted community or impact potential stakeholders. Within your nonprofit communications, it is also important to have a strong leadership center. What this means is that your organization shares stories that will help propel your mission of social change, or help raise money.

Storytelling culture can seem a bit broad, but within the nonprofit sector, your stories should be connected to the change that you want to see, or even a powerful story about how you got to where you are (testimonials, advocacy, etc.) Sharing new stories can help raise awareness, and inspire others to take action. How you use stories will be different depending on what part of the nonprofit sector your organization falls into. However, the general idea is the same. Stories are a great way to evoke feelings and emotions in human beings, and that is why the psychology behind nonprofit stories can be so moving.

Having Proper Nonprofit Management and Leadership

Perhaps one of your nonprofit leaders shares a story at a webinar or fundraiser, but they do not have a strong storytelling strategy. This type of story may not reap as many benefits in comparison to a story being told through a strong leader. What qualifies a leader to be a “good leader?” Although the answer is very subjective based on each organization, leadership often gets misunderstood when it comes to nonprofits.

In the nonprofit sector, a leader is someone who has the ability to communicate a vision and gain commitment to it through their presence. For example, they can effectively cover their nonprofit’s mission and values, and translate that into actions and emotionally connect to their audience. But what if your nonprofit struggles when it comes to this? Maybe you are realizing that your organization needs help with nonprofit leadership development, and acknowledging this is the first step.

The first thing you are going to need to do (as a leader) is identifying how you can amplify your organization through leadership. Before you can know which type of stories would be classified as a “good story,” you have to go on a journey of self-awareness. You may have heard this many times before, but truly reevaluating your “why” and “how” within your organization will help bring a greater long-term effect on others. The self-awareness journey can even be done with a consultant but will help illuminate things about yourself as a leader, how you treat others, relationship awareness, and ultimately how you convey these and present yourself to board members.

Oftentimes, individuals in nonprofit leadership roles forget to answer the “why” they are even in that position in the first place. It is because of status? Did you just end up there? Or, do you have a personal connection to the organization? The answer to the “why” (your mission) and the “how” (your execution process) will be different for everyone. Nonetheless, each leader should be in touch with themself and be able to answer these questions. Essenallum you have to know your vision, audience, and know what stories you can tell to get that emotional connection.

Forming a Nonprofit Leadership Alliance With Your Board Members

In nonprofit organizations, you are essentially creating nonprofit leadership alliances with your executive director, board members, etc. As a team, you should know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to leadership, any good leader knows themself, but also makes sure they know their team. If everyone is on a different page and has noncohesive ideas about their mission, then you will never be operating as a true team.

With that being said, an important part of the growth and reflection process is being able to learn about your board members and to connect each person “why” to the organization’s mission. Perhaps board members even share stories that connect their personal story to the organization’s story, and why they work for the organization. Similarly, maybe board members can share compelling stories from their past that share “why” they are passionate about topics x,y,z. Each board member who works for the nonprofit is going to have a story that relates their connection to the organization, so get them to share it! This can also be helpful to incorporate into nonprofit leadership training to get new board members engaged with the nonprofit’s mission.

Through these strong and powerful stories, your nonprofit can increase engagements, call to action, drive traffic to your fundraising events, crowdfunding events, and ultimately use it as a form of nonprofit marketing. The best part of storytelling is that it creates genuine and truthful messaging.

About the Guest: Pam Sherman, The ShermanEDGE

Pam Sherman, attorney, actor, and leadership consultant was profiled in People Magazine about her career transition from attorney to actor. Today Pam is a keynote speaker, conducts programs, and coaches leaders in leadership, development, and communications.  She has consulted with non-profits, Fortune 500 companies, law firms, advertising agencies, and is a highly-rated resource internationally for a variety of leadership groups, including, Vistage, the Young Presidents’ Organization, and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  She has also been an adjunct professor in Arts Management and a guest lecturer at the Kellogg School of Business and American University, among others. Her nationally syndicated column, The Suburban Outlaw appeared on the USA Today Network. www.thepamsherman.com

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