What difference have you made?
Being a strong story teller is key to being a fundraiser. So here is a tip to help you be a better story teller. It starts of course from meeting people and hearing their stories.
Meeting people who share how their lives have changed is essential. The question I have asked time and time again is,”What difference have we made?”. Often I find you have to dig deep to get the answer. People tend to respond very with matter of fact answers.
“Before I didn’t have a goat and now I do”.
“Yes, but what difference does that make?”
“Ah well now I have milk that I can sell in the market”
“Ok. And what difference does that make?”.
“Well now I can afford to buy food and the enable my son to go to school”.
Now we are getting somewhere.
And of course that reflects the nature of fundraising we are accustomed to. Tangible differences.
Ask a different question
But last time I was visiting work in Africa with ActionAid I asked a different question. In my twenty years as fundraiser I have never asked this question. But I will always ask it in the future.
I can recall the moment. We were sitting in a circle with a women’s group in Mombasa, Kenya, who had been responsible for making change happen for better. As often in these exchanges, we sat in a circle. After introductions and an outline about what the group did we were invited to ask questions.
The first question was straight out of the fundraisers kitbag. “What difference has ActionAid made?”
The leader of the group spoke very eloquently. She spoke of how ActionAid had helped them build their “capacity” and the work they been able to do as a result. I recall nodding but I don’t really remember the detail of what she said. Still, it was a solid response. Just not memorable. Maybe they were accustomed to these questions from organisations that had supported them. They knew the response that we liked to hear.
Then I asked my question.
“Would you mind telling us how you feel – how you feel now and how you used to feel?”
The same woman replied, but it was as if the answer came from a different person. Her name is Bibi. Bibi, told an extraordinary story of how she had been a victim of early pregnancy and had been close to committing suicide (she felt pretty worthless). With support from the group, the same one she now leads, she began to help at a nursery. Ten years on she is a teacher and her work with children is making her feel so proud. She spoke of how despite all that happened to her, she now believes anything is possible if you accept your problems and take the step of moving on. “That step made me another person”, she said.
What struck me was the way she spoke. It was with an energy and emotion that hadn’t been present in her previous answer.
Emotions help us remember. So that’s probably why, nine months later, I can remember that moment, I can recall her name and picture what she looks like – well you can too, as here is a picture.
Most of all I can remember what she said. “Anything is possible”. I’ve no doubt she will continue to be an incredible leader in her community.
And what price can you put on giving someone belief in themselves? It’s priceless of course.
Giving is emotional
Fundraisers need to be the best storytellers. Armed with the simple question “how do you feel?” you will hear more powerful and memorable stories, and as a result you will be a better story teller.
And let’s not forget, giving is emotional. So ask questions that will incorporate feelings in the answer. Feelings connect people. And, as all good fundraisers know, people give to people.
So when you recount a story include feelings rather than just outcomes. The best way, as with all fundraising, is simply to ask. Try it. Next time ask, “How do you feel?”