Jubi Headley

I met Jubi Headley via my other website, Writing for Nonprofits. Jubi is direct, witty, and savvy — all qualities I admire in both writers and friends, so I’m happy to introduce him to you as both, and as today’s guest blogger.   ~Kivi

Guest Post by Jubi Headley, WriteNow Communications

Whether you call them clients, customers, consumers, or something entirely different, your organization will benefit if you, dear organizational leader/employee/volunteer, get out of your own way (as Mama loves to say) and let the constituency you serve tell your story for you.  No matter how well you write, no matter how much you know, nothing you as an individual who works for an organization can say will ever be as convincing to the outside world as a testimonial from someone who has benefitted from your product or service.

Case in point:  Recently I attended the open house of an organization run by a friend of mine – an organization that teaches young African-American and Latino youth how to use the Google Android platform to develop “apps,” as they’re called.  A young boy (I’d say he was 8 or nine years old) came up to me – he wanted to show me the app he’d developed.  He pulled out his smart phone (and yes, he actually had a smart phone) and proceeded to show me an app which lets you type in any number from zero to nine – what we think of as European numbers – and converts them to the Arabic equivalent. (I should mention that this young man is Muslim and as such chose to create an app that spoke to his own experience.)

Friends, I was flabbergasted – flabbergasted that an eight-year-old could be so technologically savvy, as well as create something that had such practical applications.  (Whether you’re a technological illiterate like myself, or you’re poised to launch the next Microsoft , Facebook or Google, you gotta be a little impressed by this kid.  Who in ten years will probably develop something that trumps what you’re working on anyhow.  Did I mention that after his “product demo” he asked for my business card?)

Two weeks later, I received an e-mail from this organization, asking for financial support.  The ask was modest – only $25.  I immediately (as in, within ten minutes of receiving the e-mail) gave $50.  I didn’t give simply because I was asked to give, or because I had the means to do so. I gave because I was so impressed by what I saw as the potential of this program, I was compelled to do more than the minimum.  I’m not rich, by any means, but I figured I could at least double the ask.

THAT, dear friends, is how you want your potential supporters to feel.

Though as a writer I am of course assured of the power of the written word, I am going to, at this time, commit a teeny blasphemy and suggest to you that the written word isn’t always the best way to communicate your clients’ experiences.  Hold an open house, like my friend did.  Take clients with you to meetings with media folks, funders, and community leaders.  If you have the resources, get them to tell their story on video and post it on your website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and anywhere else you can think of.  E-mail the video link to your prospective supporters.

Even when you do need to make use of the written word, you can STILL let your clients tell the story.  Be the editor, if it’s needed, not the writer.  Whether they write the piece themselves, or tell it to you for you to transcribe, tread lightly upon their words, I beseech you.  Chances are their authentic voice is what might move someone like me – a potential donor – to give to your cause.

Case in point #2:  I get many, MANY fundraising letters from organizational executive directors, presidents, and worker bees with such esteemed titles.  In the past year, let’s say that, estimating conservatively, I’ve received fifty.  Of those, ONE – exactly one – was from someone who herself was a client of the organization sending the letter.  Did I give to the organization?  No – at least, not yet.  BUT—of all the fundraising letters I’ve received this year, that’s the only one that hasn’t gone into the recycling bin.  I received it months ago and it’s still sitting on my kitchen counter.  I almost feel guilty throwing it away, so intimately did the letter communicate the organization’s need.

THAT, dear friends, is how you want your potential supporters to feel.

Jubi Headley is President of WriteNow Communications, and is also a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas.  You can e-mail Jubi at jubi@write-now.org.