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By Guest Blogger
Claire Voyant

Storytelling. As marketing and PR professionals, we know storytelling works, but sometimes it’s hard to convey that to our clients (you nonprofits out there). After all, our clients are serious people doing serious work. Just the word sounds a little “light” doesn’t it? Storytelling. Like a group of children sitting around granny, quilt on her lap, eyeglasses perched on the tip of her nose.

But . . . that’s just the point! I can SEE granny, spinning her tale, the small children listening, “…and then the mama bear . . .” Now, instead of telling you about granny, what if I said this:

“Every year, the Elder Helper program sends more than 250 senior citizens to over 50 low-income child care centers to read to at-risk youth.” Yes, we have the number. We have the buzz words. What we don’t have is a picture in our head.

Painting a Picture. That is the whole point of WHY storytelling works. But don’t listen to me — listen to the expert. His name is Donald Davis, and he’s one of the most beloved storytellers in the country. Fans pack the house when Donald is in town and he’s the headliner at all the major storytelling festivals from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to Mariposa, California. This former Methodist minister also works with corporations and nonprofits who want to learn how to turn stories into action.

I called his home in Ocracoke, North Carolina, and first had a nice chat with his lovely wife, Merle Davis. She works with nonprofits, too, and said nonprofits really should tell their stories — because they have the best stories to tell. Then I got to talk with the Donald himself, who told me, “I’m not online . . . I’m on the road!”

I got right to the point and asked him why EXACTLY do stories work.

“Because stories paint a picture in your head,” said Donald. “You don’t HEAR a story — you SEE it. Then you feel what that person is feeling. Then you make the human connection to what they’re saying.”

I see that. In my head.

Then I asked him why EXACTLY numbers and jargon don’t work.

“Because numbers and jargon do not paint a picture. They don’t mean anything to the listener. If I say to you “capacity building” you can’t see it. What does “capacity building” look like?”

I don’t know what “capacity building” looks like. Does it have windows?

There you have it, from the Ocracoke-dwelling, bow-tie wearing, crowd pleasing, tale-spinning story man himself. Stories paint a picture in your head and make you feel. You want your audience to feel your mission, don’t you? So paint a picture — with a story.

From now on, when I want to tell a client why storytelling works, I’m going to tell them a story . . . about Donald Davis.

Claire Voyant is Claire Meyerhoff, a media and communications consultant based in Raleigh, NC. You can contact Claire at meymedia AT aol.com.

This post is part of Kivi’s participation in the Blogging4Learning Challenge, where she is writing various kinds of blog posts (including publishing a guest blogger) to share what she’s learning about storytelling for nonprofits.

Published On: March 4, 2008|Categories: Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Writing, Storytelling|

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