Ep 92 | Storytelling with Kari Anderson

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As a nonprofit you have a lot of stories you can share with potential donors to share your impact. How you share these stories can make a big impact. Kari Anderson is here to share ways to be more intentional with your stories and the ways you approach this.

 In this episode you'll learn:

→ what storytelling is.
→ about crafting your call-to-action
→ how to get started.
→ why practice makes perfect.
→ the imporantce of testing.

Want to skip ahead?  Here are some key takeaways:

[7:47] Stories allow you to make meaningful connections with your donors. It's about making them feel a deeper and more meangingful connection with them and making it about them. Telling stories comes through in your email campaigns, your Facebook ads, advertisement and anything else you're putting out in the world. Let people see themselves in your stories so they feel that if those people like them are donating, they should too.
[13:05] Make sure every story has a strong call-to-action. Think about the purpose behind the story and weave in your call-to-action based off of what you're end goal is. Is it to get people to volunteer, donate, register, etc. Remember that each story should have ONE specific call-to-action, keep it simple. You don't want to overwhelm your audience with too many options so they take NO action.


Online Fundraising Virtual Summit
Non-Profit Therapy Session with Kari Anderson


Kari Anderson

Kari Anderson

Founder, Incite! Consulting

Kari launched Incite! Consulting to provide organizational capacity building to small and medium size nonprofits. Her coaching with nonprofit leaders – board, executive and staff – uses best practices, industry research, real-time stories from the field and the school of hard knocks.

Located in Jackson, WY and Coeur d'Alene, ID, Kari brings the office and toolkit to her client – wherever they are in the Western US. She works with nonprofits to create shared visions with boards and staff.

Prior to launching her consulting practice, Kari spent 20+ years in leadership positions with seven nonprofit organizations. As the Executive Director or lead development staff, Kari focused on leadership, organizational change and fund development for Lutheran Social Services, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, American Heart Association, The Logan School for Creative Learning, Real Colorado Soccer, the Vail Valley Foundation and Central Washington University.

Kari provides regular education and training for nonprofit leaders through the Community Foundations of North Central Washington, Jackson Hole and Teton Valley, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Idaho Nonprofit Center, the Montana Nonprofit Association, the Wyoming Nonprofit Network, The Center for a Vital Community and the Wyoming Community Foundation.

Kari is a Montana native, born in Billings and raised in Red Lodge and Whitefish. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. Kari and her husband reside in Harrison and Tetonia, ID with their cats Tyson and Rahlves. Learn more at: https://inciteconsultinggroup.com/

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Full Transcript

[INTRO] Hello hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the digital marketing therapy Podcast. I am your host Sami Bedell-Mulhern, thank you so much for joining me today, I am excited to talk with you about storytelling. And we have a special guest here who I'll introduce shortly.

But storytelling is really all about how your organization just shares about the people that you serve the community that you serve, or maybe it's the environment, whatever it is, they can share your passion behind why your organization exists. You can share stories about the people and why they got engaged and are impacted by what you do. And, and all of the things and I think it's a good reminder to really think differently about how we talk to our donors, how we talk to the people, we provide services to how we talk to the communities that we serve, in a way that really packs a punch and makes it a little bit more impactful. And so that's what we're going to talk about today with Kari Anderson.

Kari launched Incite! cConsulting to provide organizational capacity building to small and medium sized nonprofits. Her coaching with nonprofit leaders, board executive and staff uses best practices industry research real time stories from the field in the school of hard knocks. Located in Jackson, Wyoming and Cour de Lane, Idaho Kari brings the office and toolkit to her client, wherever they are in the western US. She works with nonprofits to create shared visions with boards and staff.

Prior to launching her consulting practice, Kari spent 20 plus years in leadership positions with seven nonprofit organizations. As the executive director or lead development staff carry focused on leadership, organizational change, and fund development for Lutheran Social Services. The Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Heart Association, the Logan school for creative learning, Real Colorado soccer. I think I said that right. Then the Vail Valley foundation in Central Washington University. Kari provides regular education and training for nonprofit leaders through the community foundations of North Central Washington, Jackson Hole and Teton Valley, the Association of Fundraising Professionals the Idaho nonprofit Center, the Montana nonprofit association, Center for vital communicate community and the Wyoming Community Foundation, Carrie, the Montana native born in Billings and raised in Red Lodge and whitefish.

She received her Bachelor of Arts and Communication with an emphasis in public relations for Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Kari and her husband reside in Harrison and teutonia. Idaho. I hope I said that one right, with their cats, Tyson and Rockies.

I think you're going to really, I really want you to just sit with this episode. And you might want to listen to it a couple of times, because for a lot of you, it might be a completely different way to think about how you approach the way that you communicate in your ad campaigns and your social media and your website, all of the things to really put people first, your potential donors, the people that take advantage of your services, all of that. And just think differently about the way that you really talk about how and what you do. So it's an amazing episode, I think you're really going to enjoy it.

Before we get to it. This episode is brought to you by the upcoming online fundraising and virtual summit. So this free summit takes place February 8 through February 12. And Kari will be a speaker there as well. And we have 20 plus speakers coming to talk on 20 plus topics all around how to create your monthly donor campaign. How do you start it? How do you build it? How do you grow it? How do you retain those donors? And how do you grow them into larger donors for your organization. We even have some nonprofit organizations that will be joining us live on Friday to answer all your questions about how they did it and how they've been successful and how this has been making a major impact in their fundraising strategies and stability for their organizations. So I really hope that you will join us head on over to https://onlinefundraisingsummit.com to get registered. And make sure that you get all of the dates for the sessions, you want to hit on your calendar so you don't miss out on an important session. Whether you're just starting or reviving a new monthly donor campaign. This is definitely going to be the summit for you. Let's get into the episode.

[CANNED INTRODUCTION] You're listening to the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Hey everybody, please join me in welcoming Kari Anderson to the podcast. Kari, thank you so much for being here today.

[KARI ANDERSON] Thanks so much for the invitation Sami.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. So we are talking storytelling and the nonprofit space and before we kind of get into some tactical, logistical, whatever stuff, why is this such a passion for you? And what how did you get into it?

[KARI ANDERSON] Yeah, that's a great question. So some of your listeners may know that I am a recovering nonprofit executive director. And the reason that this particular space is so important to me is that we didn't talk about storytelling a lot. When I was actually working in the field, we were certainly data driven. We were certainly numbers driven. There were always facts and figures. And while those are super important to those that invest in your business, because we are businesses, and it's not a motive, and it was probably a no 1520 years ago, when really smart communication directors and marketing directors started really treating us differently about the importance of connecting emotionally to those who invest in us.

And it's just gotten much more sophisticated, and frankly, much simpler, as we've moved on from them. And I certainly have seen the results when we speak to our audience, because it is about them, not us. And when we speak with regard to a true story, right, whether it's a beginning, a middle, and an end or a call to action, because they can actually feel themselves in the shoes of those who serve. And it's pretty transformational for nonprofit organizations.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] So I want to jump back to something you said write a check, because it just hit me that you said, you know, when we when we speak with emotion, and a lot of nonprofits probably feel like just by talking about their cause they're automatically talking with emotion. But that's not always the case.

[KARI ANDERSON] You're absolutely right. And you actually mentioned the very important word right at the nonprofit's talking about themselves. So one of the big leaps that we've certainly seen, and there's data and case studies to support it. But there's also additional money in the bank is our US room, reminding ourselves as staff, right, or nonprofit volunteers, that we're not supposed to be talking about us, we're supposed to be talking about the donor, right helping to put them in the nonprofit story. And it really isn't ever about us, it's about those we serve, and those who choose to invest. And if we can change our language to be reflective of that. It's it's really life changing for the organization.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, I agree. And this is going to be a huge mind shift, I think, for a lot of people that are listening. And I feel like storytelling is kind of one of those terms thrown around a lot. So can you maybe just you touched on this a little bit, you know, beginning middle, and you know, whatever. But what is kind of just the basic bare bones like, what do I need to know about what storytelling is?

[KARI ANDERSON] Sure. So I think a simple definition is this. So unlike a mission statement, stories, develop meaningful connections with your audience and motivate them to action. And I would also share a favorite favorite quote of mine that I'll have to reground myself with, on occasion, certainly when writing a copy for clients, and certainly when coaching and consulting with clients about the shift storytelling and that is this a quote from a professor of Dr. Howard Gardner at Harvard. And that's this, “stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leaders arsenal.”

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, yeah, that's great. And I think we tend to think about stories in the nonprofit space as just maybe like the stories of the people that we serve, or the impact, but I mean, are there other ways that we can pull stories like why people got engaged or involved or like who the you know, impactful members are of the like, you can use your mission and your vision in creating the stories that you tell it in a way that makes it more like you said, engaging and bringing the people in?

[KARI ANDERSON] Certainly. And, you know, I think it's really important that we look at great storytelling, and marketing as synergistic, right. And I'm always mindful about helping bring whether it's board members or staff volunteers back to the fact that we are running a business, it happens to have a different tax status, right? We have a different purpose than than a for profit business. But if we look at the connection between marketing and storytelling, think of some of the best advertising campaigns that we've seen on TV. And oftentimes, you see those during the Super Bowl, but certainly, there are other times of year where there's just a really compelling campaign that comes out. And the reason they're so compelling is it takes us on an emotional journey, right? It appeals to wants, needs and desires, while at the same time telling us about a product or service or people we have a product or service that oftentimes is in an innate part of our mission. Right. And we really want to be able to help. Certainly backed up right with with data and analytics, help our supporters really have a visceral connection to what we do. And it really is simple, right?

So I think back to seventh grade, when we were asked to put together a five paragraph essay, right, as a part of early English classes, and it really, it's not even a five paragraph essay or for storytelling, there's always beginning the conflict and action or results. And that truly is the most simplistic model. And it works, right? When we're talking about why we do what we do, or how we do what we do in the voice of our supporters. Right. So they can be like, Oh, my gosh, that person, I'm so much like that person if they are giving to this organization, then I should, too. Right. Right. Whether it's whether an ask it's like an identification? Absolutely.

And you know, I think two wonderful videos, or wonderful infographics that I've seen from both large and small nonprofits, and it's everything from through a homeless pets eyes, right, one of the best ones and Yanks my hurt every time I see it is there's a commercial that's on TV every once in a while for the ASPCA. And it shows all of these dogs that are chained outside in the winter, right? And, like, what would it be like if that were you? Right? Or what would that be like if that were you? Or you know, someone else's animal, right that you've seen other fabulous stories that I've seen, our Red Cross has done some really amazing work on post hurricane, not so much to show the immediate need for support when a hurricane hits, but during the rebuilding, and and really helping interested individuals see how they can be a part of moving to solution.

And I think that's the really important piece, Sami is that when you're telling the story, right, that gets back to the actual result. There always needs to be a call to action at the end of the story. Otherwise, it's just words.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, but let's talk about that call to action, for sure. Because Yeah, like, obviously, at the end of those commercials always donate now.Bbut in your marketing, it might not be it might be a blog post that you're writing story about, it might be your emails that you're sending to your to your list, it might be, you know, a ad Facebook ad that you're running, right, so few of us are running these visual, national television. So how can I mean, what's the difference? Like when should you use like a real hard call to action that's like donate now versus something that's more like nurturing them into maybe it's learning more about the services or ask her asking for volunteers, like, you know, what are some things people should think about when it when crafting that call to action?

[KARI ANDERSON]  That's a great question. So I think it always goes back to so what is the purpose of the story, right. And certainly, there's going to be storytelling where your purpose is educating your constituents, either those who currently support you, or those who might be new, right? Whether they're new in town, whether they haven't heard about you before, whether they have supported other like, niche organizations, and they're looking at you, right, so that very easily could be if you're looking to educate, it could be the call to action is attend a virtual speaker series to learn more, right, it could have a link to learn more as to how to volunteer for an organization, it could lead to call to action could be sign up for our newsletter, or our podcast, to become more informed about an issue or an advocate stance that the organization may have. Alright, so it's always about what the purpose of the story is, certainly, there's going to be times where the purpose is, we're asking you to join us right in supporting financially, this organization, or we're asking you to commit to a monthly gift to be able to fund the new children's library. Right, right, whatever that might be.

But it always ties back to what's the purpose of the story. And usually stories have one, two or three pieces that wander along in the theme, and that's to educate, to end to inspire, right, and to really cause there to be an action.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Mm hmm. Well, and I'm curious your thoughts on this, because one thing that I see a lot with nonprofit organizations is you get their email newsletter or you get, you know, you see a post on social media or whatever. And it's like this laundry list of all of the things that they want you to take action on, right so they get 15 different things. So would you do you feel like with your storytelling, whatever that piece is, whether it's long, whether it's a commercial whatever no kind of one story one action one call to action?

[KARI ANDERSON] Yes. Right. So what was was the old adage, right? Keep it simple, right? So I mean, certainly, I was looking at two different lenses and, and the first lens is, so what my response be if I received something like that, whether I've received my email, whether I received it in the mail, certainly in the land, before COVID, and the land before Oh, even the last economic recession, our inboxes, were just absolutely inundated right with things that we needed to pay attention to. And I just, I talked to a board member the other day who sheepishly admitted to me that he's having to monitor two email boxes right now one for work, one for home, and he has 11,000 unread emails in his work inbox, and he has 4000 in his personal. So if we are really wanting folks to take action on something, we need to keep it simple. And I would say On the flip side, right now looking out of the lens of the nonprofit staff member, if we are having one call to action, per PR,
social media posts, right, or email or a box on a website or a print piece? Certainly that's easier for tracking purposes. What was our ROI on those? Right? Right, what was our ROI? We certainly can also think about these stories as as touch points for our supporters. And so why wouldn't you want to have multiple touch points that go out on a scheduled basis, because not everyone's going to be interested in the same thing. And if we're being more mindful about tracking, then we can certainly personalize and really curate specific stories for specific audiences. And that's a different level of sophistication send me that I would wish for nonprofits to really consider is, we have to pay different attention to those that are in our database, because not everyone is motivated by everything that's in your mission.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yes, and we could go down thing, and we will probably do another podcast episode about that. Sure, sure. But I love exactly what you're saying. Marketing is so much about testing. Storytelling is so much about testing. And if you aren't specific in what you do, it makes it really hard like you're saying to know what's resonating with your audience and whatnot. Because I think when you in any organization you can you when you live it and breathe it. And especially because so many organizations are working in sensitive topics, or you know, topics with urgency, whether it's the environment or you know, child abuse, what hunger, whatever, it can be really hard to get step outside of that bubble that you're in all the time. And think about it from the outsider's point of view to try to get them engaged instead, as opposed to like, just bombarding them with all of this stuff, because you're living and breathing it every day.

[KARI ANDERSON] Absolutely.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN]  Okay. So obviously, storytelling can be used in all of your marketing efforts. If I'm going to sit down and really think about how I want to do this in my organization, like what tips would you have for kind of sitting down and thinking about it from a different perspective as I sit to write an email or a blog post, or

[KARI ANDERSON] Sure. So there's, there's a couple different pieces and whether you want to call this a checklist or whether you want to call this your to do list? I think that as you start to look, and I was looking at a sort of a new calendar year, right, as I was a fresh start for, hey, what can we be doing differently? Or what can we beef up? And in our nonprofit communications, I think it's always great to start with imagining who your target audiences are, right? And so this isn't just about, oh, I've got to read a Facebook page today, right? This is before we start to do that. So who are your target, target audiences, at your nonprofit, and that might be segmented, you might have an overarching target audience just for your basic missions, or that if you're calling us the American Heart Association for a second, you may have a group that's interested in pediatric heart issues, you may have a subset of your base that is interested in stroke research, you may have another subset that's interested in what's going on with sudden cardiac arrest, or with anything having to do with congestive heart issues, right? So whom are your target audiences?

Making sure I think we knew piece two is making sure that we think about how storytelling helps your particular issue come to life. And always the need for their decent personality behind it. Instead of just you know, kind of a flat dry you know, third party attached voice. The goal was with the story. Something else that I always like nonprofits to think about is, especially our small ones, where, oh, I'm at the staff, one or a staff of two. But you may not ever have a communications or marketing staff person. And that's just fine. Everyone in your organization actually is responsible for listening for stories, because our job isn't necessarily to create the story, our job is to listen for stories from the field, right?

Think about all those that you serve. And we're all those that have been impacted by mission. And why wouldn't we want to be using the two years in one mouth? Because they're authentic? Right, they come, they come right from the field. A couple other things to think about as you're starting to put this in motion.

So certainly, we should create a process. And for those of you that know me, you absolutely know that one of my favorite sayings is structure gives you freedom rights, I'm a very much a process oriented person, and you are too, so so let's pretend for 200 seconds that you found this great, you found a great story, or you're starting to get stories. So we actually need to have a process to bank that. And what I mean by that is, so what happens if the story when it's identified? Whom is responsible for being the repository of those stories? If there's additional interviews that need to happen with regard to the story, who's doing that? And and how are we doing that? Who is actually helping to do some training, maybe whether that's with board members or staff as to how to how to tell the stories and and really doing some identification internally, as to who might be your best storytellers, when actually asked right by the press, or asked for a quote, not everyone feels super comfortable actually being the storyteller, whether you're writing it, or whether you're actually having to verbalize it.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, and I like what you're saying about, you know, kind of utilizing whoever it is on the team, like, you know, whether you have a marketing staff or not, I think, engaging everybody on your team to create that content. Even if you have one person that edits it all, you're going to get some amazing perspectives and stories from the volunteers, people on your team. And this is this is what kills me about nonprofits and storytelling so much is like you have so it's so much easier in the nonprofit space to have impactful amazing stories that you can share, compared to the service, or compared to like product based or, you know, the for profit world that you're just not taking advantage of. So I love your idea of having kind of that repository of things that you can just go back to, and I think you'll find that creating content is so much easier and doesn't take as much time it just feels scary. Right?

[KARI ANDERSON] Right. Well, initially Sami it's one more thing to do. Right. And then as, as we're, you know, it's funny, we can have an entirely different podcast on the importance of delegation, right, or the importance of time management when it when it comes to this. And it is frightening, or frustrating, or all the above, when you're having to sit down and say, Man, I've got one more thing to add to my to do list. And when we do this and actually really commit to we're going to talk about our work differently. And that's really what it comes down to is we were already talking ideally about our work. We know we're using social media. Hopefully they're right then we have in the past, we know we're keeping our websites up to snuff, since that's our 24 seven storefront, we're communicating differently with our supporters. But now it's just shifting from talking just about numbers and stats to putting a face right behind those.

And there's another quote that I just absolutely love. There's a little bit of a name of Laura Holloway, and She's the founder and chief of the storyteller agency. And her quote is this, “storytelling offers the opportunity to talk with your audience, not at them.” Yeah.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN]  No, that's, I mean, I think that's everything. Because we're trying to create raving. I mean, raving fans. Yeah, I like to like it's the exact same and I know you and I have had this conversation separately. But I really feel like if nonprofits change their mindset to I'm a nonprofit and just consider themselves as a for profit and marketed and treated their donors, just like any other company would treat their customers in a nurture way. The storytelling piece coming into that, like you're just building that dedication, you're building that loyalty, that advocacy, and hopefully turning those people then into storytellers of your organization in their own right to their own audiences.

[KARI ANDERSON] Absolutely. You know, it's interesting, one of the things that I work a lot with with clients that are thinking about how to take care of our donors differently. And when we talk about donor stewardship storytelling piece, certainly, you know, comes into play one of my favorite questions always to ask a donor. It's a two part question. And the first is, why did you originally choose to make a gift to our organization? And the second is wide, what continues to inspire you to give? And the stories that I will hear from donors, right? So it's not just recipients of your mission, right? Whether that's food scarcity, or whether that's housing crisis, or whether that's right now up right, or anything that is a top of mind, in terms of an essential service that we're providing in 2020 21. hearing those stories from donors, is an equal opportunity to make you weep right there just so absolutely compelling, and how wonderful right to also deploy our donors as storytellers for the organization.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. I want to kind of switch to sure, in light of COVID, I think a lot of the ways that organizations are fundraising has shifted, you know, going from traditional fundraisers, to maybe having to get online more. Sure. And so I just want you to think about this, if you're a nonprofit that has traditionally been fundraiser event heavy, I think storytelling is something that's really big. When you do your fundraisers, I think nonprofits are great about including that in those moments. But now that maybe you're not running those fundraisers as much, maybe thinking about kind of that time and how you use your staff and shifting kind of that same energy that you put into your fundraising events into just creating regular stories that you can share and nurture with your audience. year round. Like what like that's what I'm excited to see how 2021 and ball evolves for organizations and how they're great how it shifts? Yeah, it's interesting.

[KARI ANDERSON] So certainly, as we were watching March and April unfold in 2020, and there was the immediate, oh, Let's postpone our event, right, or we have to cancel our event, or whatever that decision was. There were certainly some interesting decisions that will be made in again, no stones being thrown to anyone, because we certainly didn't have a playbook as to how this was supposed to, you know, shake out what was originally way back when right, we thought that this is going to be a two week long thing. And you know, all of a sudden, you know, here we are. So one of the first things that certainly I was counseling and challenging clients to do was something that I think anyone that's been special event heavy for a long time, should have been doing a while ago. And that was this isn't about having people come to a run or coming to a fancy dinner or to dance or to a concert, they're giving those funds there. But why don't we just have a conversation with them about investing in your mission. And so the challenge that I was putting forth to clients at that juncture was let's take your projected attendance for the event that's no longer happening. And divide that by two and set a goal to actually convert those folks to become major gift donors to your organization. And what does that mean actually means you need to have a conversation with them.

And you know, I am, again, I think you and I've talked about this offline, recovering right executive director worked in the nonprofit space for as an exec for 25 years, have a huge raving fan of fabulous in person special events, love, love that when they're done well. But the myths that I continue to see with nonprofits is they'll put all this effort into that event, but they won't convert those event attendees to be long term donors to the organization. Right. And with you, yeah, we've you have the fortunes in the follow up. And, and we've uses events as as a crutch. I love those events as being part of a diversified fundraising portfolio. So you know, to get to the crux of your question.

So what are we doing more just to get folks to give? Well, people, it's a conversation. Mm hmm. And, and, yes, we have to have to have, or we have to have conversations differently. Now. Some of us live in rural parts of the country where you can still have a socially distance walk, if it is appropriate with your yourself, your COVID planet, your organization and the donor. And some we have to have via phone or online, and I chuckle a little because those of us who have raised money for a long periods of time, who have always lived in rural markets, or have had donor bases that are spread out Sami, we've always had to be on the phone with them. Mm hmm. Right. So I think it really offers nonprofits, a reset and a grounding of Okay, we'll eventually be able to have events in person again, and it gives us a chance to think about when we do what lessons are we going to take from COVID and put them into those events. And since we don't know when that's going to happen, we don't wait. Right?

We have, we have food that we need to deliver to people, we have medical supplies that need to be delivered. We have housing issues to take care of our arts organizations are suffering mightily, like we have things to do. So we're not going to just wait for an event, right, we're going to do the things we need to in terms of sharing compelling stories in a thoughtful planned matter. And part of that Sami, I would absolutely say first opportunity is to be surveying your database. Yeah. How often would they like to hear from you? And in what format because, again, I'm ever mindful, we've got so many small and mighty nonprofits that are having to split, you know, seconds in terms of trying to get work done. So why wouldn't we want to survey our people to say, What are you most interested in what format? And you're never gonna please everyone? Right, let's, let's put that out there. We're never gonna please everyone. But if you know, 78%, or pay more attention to social, then email, maybe we put more of our time into our social media posts.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, I think that's so good. Because I think there's this fear and like, well, if we ask them these questions, they're gonna think we don't know what we're doing. They're gonna think like, you know, we're disorganized or whatever. But across the board, I don't care if you're for profit or not for profit, like, they feel excited that you care enough about what they think, to make that a part of your marketing strategy, right. And like you said, You're not going to please everybody. But the information that you'll glean from that is going to be super impactful, and how you spend that limited time. And I think that's super smart. And something that you should just maybe do on an annual basis anyway.

[KARI ANDERSON] Things change, right? from year to year. So why wouldn't you want to ask? And if it just isn't the importance of listening? And I would, you know, if I weren't in a nonprofit shoes again, I'd probably worry less about, oh, they don't know what I'm doing. No, people will pass that. And believe me, if you're worried that much about what people are thinking, they've got their own things to worry about right now. you asking? It's being polite, it's the doing. So if we care enough to ask, and 78% of them say this, is it stupid, then do it? Right, and then do it. I mean, I just I did some survey work for a client last July, that has an environmental and conservation nonprofit, and they have pillars of work that they are responsible for, but they're down staff, and they're down some board members, and so they can't operate in the five, you know, colorspace that they've been operating in. And so we did some survey work and 80% of the constituent base said, Hey, focus on the water, stupid. So that's, so that's what we're doing. Right?

And so and so if we if we care enough to ask them we actually have to care enough to do and then why wouldn't you want to go tell stories about that, like, your constituents told you? This was important. And so now we're working on it and inviting others to join us?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, I I just I think that nonprofits tend to get in their own way. Yes. And I think the other thing that I've been encouraging organizations to do at the start of the year is really also similar to what it means survey your audience, but also really stick with what your vision and mission is, and simplify. So that you know what stories to tell that are actually going to be impactful to the real reason why you're doing what you're doing. Because I think a lot of times, especially in times of turmoil, we tend to follow the dollar, as opposed to follow the mission, because we're just trying to stay afloat. So really paying attention to what are we really here to do? How do we tell impactful stories around that? And then trust that if we do that well and continue to do that, then we're gonna get the right funds? I mean, it's not that simple. But you don't I'm saying then we're going to get the funds that are in alignment with what we're trying to do, as opposed to just trying to go after anything we can to get cash to cover our operating expenses so that we can eventually get back to what our original mission was.

[KARI ANDERSON] No, you're absolutely correct. And I so appreciate you you calling out hey, we're done with the tail wagging the dog, right with regard to finances, right, like you have a mission. And so we ought only be looking at fundraising and including grants that fund our mission. Not Oh, my heavens, this wonderful donor wants to give me money for this project. But the project doesn't really fit within our mission, mission creep, or Oh, there's this lovely grant, but then the amount of reporting, because heads up folks, we have to do grant reporting, that's a thing. Right? That it doesn't even make sense for the organization based on bandwidth and certainly between March and April last year, we were seeing boards needing to do this.

But I would say if there is one particular piece of learning that's come from this past year is it is really important to sit down every year, regardless of pandemic, regardless of economic uncertainty and say, Is this the most important work for us to be doing, because it's really easy to have creep, even in the best of circumstances and the way that we do work now, again, another silver lining that has come out of COVID. In the end, the economic uncertainty is we can actually do our work differently. And so just because you did things before doesn't mean, you have to do them that way. Again, and frankly, some of it probably should be scrapped. Starting with, you know, how we communicate or how we fundraise, or frankly, how some of our programs were actually inspired and delivered and certainly evaluated, because I actually think that you can do more, with less. And we're certainly seeing both from a staffing standpoint, but certainly from a board of directors bandwidth piece, if we want people to engage, we're going to have to do some simplify.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] I'm so excited about Yeah, exactly what you just said and how nonprofits are going to innovate and change the way that they operate. And I think there's probably some staffers out there that are like, just super thankful, because there's now finally, the things that they've been trying to push through, especially in the online space, you know, you can't avoid and so I think now the challenge is really for, you know, the executive teams and the boards to really embrace, change, and allow for some testing and allow for some failure and allow for things to be maybe done a little bit differently. And I think thinking about storytelling is definitely going to be a push for some people, but I think I mean, I think they'll see, I mean, it's a long term play, right? Like, it's a long test. But my hope, and I think your hope would be the same query that, you know, a year from now, six months from now, they can start doing this. And they'll just be like, Oh, my gosh, why haven't we been doing this the whole time?

[KARI ANDERSON] Well, the trick is, right, and you've alluded to this a little bit. So this isn't gonna change overnight. For for anyone, I look at how we've had to make lots of changes in the sector, and certainly switching in terms of how we use language. That's not everyone's, you know, innate skill set or forte, but if there can be a commitment at the organization to say, we want to communicate differently. And this is how long to this year and really keep it at a very high level simple framework, you can always layer on, right, so it looks like layer cake. And what we absolutely know to be true is if there is a success once with how you've done something differently, you're much more apt to do it again. And it certainly becomes easier. So I would, I would certainly wave the flag of caution for folks to become overzealous or over commit to do this, because then there's going to be this, you know, full burnout. But that happens maybe two or three months in, start slow, right step, slow and steady wins the race on this, because it is a it is a long game play. And there's another quote that I read not that well, actually not that long ago. And again, it reminds me on a fairly daily basis, whether I'm telling a story for a client or whether I'm hearing the story, the quote is this, “It's the stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies to both individuals and institutions.” And that quote is from Michael Margolis. He is the CEO for good stories. And He is an educator and a future anthropologist. So start small, right and have some consistencies with us.

Yeah, it's a practice. It is absolutely. And practice is hard. Sometimes. Practice also doesn't mean perfect. Right?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Oh, my gosh, I'm so glad you said that, too. Because I think there's in any stage of business, we tend to stop or not produce or not actually.

What's the word I'm looking for? Put out there the things that we do, because we're afraid it's not going to be be perfect, but if you do nothing, you'll achieve nothing. So like, I'll give you an example. I today literally sent out well, you know, could you got it? I do.

And I was working on my automations and I sent out an email to my entire list that wasn't supposed to go out until you know February 8, creating urgency about this online fundraising summit that we've got. And, you know, like I could have easily been like crap, and just like, my entire day, but instead I'm like, you know what? Whatever. So I just sent another email out and just said, oops, oh, sorry, we made a mistake, like, you know, like those things happen.

And I've seen these, I've gotten emails from like major national corporations that have done things like that, like, oops, sorry, the link was broken. So I think it's, it's a matter of putting ourselves in the mindset of progress, not perfection. And until we start actually practicing some of these things like storytelling and engaging our audiences in the ways, you're not going to know how your audience is going to respond to it positive or negative. And be, you're never going to see results if you just keep doing the same thing over and over again.

[KARI ANDERSON] It's absolutely true. And while I am not that I'm in agreement that hey, it's always nice not to have a mistake. Hey, I got your email this morning, I paid attention. Because all of a sudden, like holy crap, am I supposed to have my staff ready for Sami? And so yeah, I said, we might not AI, sometimes it'll actually create different results.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN]  For who it was, but buddy in the, in the digital marketing space, that's pretty big, but they purposely put typos in their email. Because then people respond, and they say, Hey, you know, blah, blah, blah, and it still starts a conversation with them. And you know, they were reading it. And so, you know, they'll say, Oh, yeah, we're all human. We all make mistakes. But you know, thanks. What do you think about this? And it allowed, I mean, I'm not suggesting you do that right in every single thing that you do, right? Just to let you know, that, that that perfection piece, people aren't going to not give to you because you make a little bit of a mistake, or your story isn't perfect or great while you're in the learning process.

[KARI ANDERSON] Right? And what is what is the old idea? So admittedly, I'm going to probably alienate half of your audience right now. when when when folks say hey, Star Wars or Star Trek, right, I am definitely of the ilk of Star Wars. And so one of my favorite favorite Yoda quotes, right is what is it? There's a do or don't do, there is no try, right? Don't like just Just do it. Right? Like, it's not gonna be perfect right away. I certainly, I'm sure you could line up a bunch of my old bosses and a bunch of my current or former clients to say, hey, yeah, that didn't quite work the way they were supposed to. But what mattered is we did, right, because then you can if you do, and then you've got some data as a source to look at the same. What worked? What didn't? That's so much better than the just the swirl of of nothing, swirl of nothing.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN]  Yeah, I love it. Well, Kari, you've given us a ton of amazing things to think about. Is there anything else maybe I didn't ask about with storytelling that you think is something people should consider or think about?

[KARI ANDERSON] You know, I think a couple other pieces, Sami. So certainly, there's no I would call a little bit of a prototype in terms of how you get going. Having a structure is important in terms of beginning to complex and the action and or, you know, the result.

Certainly thinking about various places that you can use storytelling, whether it's videos, podcasts, social media, infographics, and the one that people forget about is, Hey, folks, we've got a voice. And yes, it's lovely to use technology. But we should be telling these stories as often as we possibly can, when we're actually interacting with people, whether that's via phone, whether that's via zoom, or when we can actually get back to the business of being together in person. And, and listening for those stories that we may not know about the importance of having questions to be able to solicit those stories. Yeah, which the survey is also a great place to ask for those types of things as well. Right? For sure.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. Well, Kari, this has been amazing. Such a great conversation. If people want to know more about you and what you do, how do they find you?

[KARI ANDERSON] Oh, boy, we need to get a freshly sharpened pencil because I'm my my website or right? It's long, so they certainly can find me on all the social channels. But the name of my company is Incite Consulting Group, and that's I N C I T E exclamation point, consulting group. And they are absolutely Welcome to find the online. If nonprofits need assistance offers something on Mondays called nonprofit therapy. And those are free one hour or one half hour calls for any nonprofit, you never need to be a client. And we certainly can dive into storytelling, or whatever else you have questions on on Mondays.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Oh, that's so great. So we will link all of that stuff up in the show notes as well at https://www.thefirstclick.net/podcast so you can find all of those goodies. But thank you so much for joining me today. This was wonderful.

[KARI ANDERSON] You're so welcome. Thanks for the opportunity. Sami, take care.

[CLOSING] Thank you Kari. One last time for joining us on this episode. She was a wealth of knowledge. And I think it was just a great conversation and a great way to think about how do we tell our stories? How do we really share the impact that we do and make it about them. And not make it about us. How do we dive and get them in deeper with everything that we're doing. And so I really hope that you pick one or two things that you're going to try to test with your audience and test with your copy over the next couple of weeks. And again, I hope you'll join us for the free online fundraising virtual summit, February 8 to the 12th. Again, Kari will be a speaker there as well, so you'll have an opportunity to engage and interact with her Registration is open. So please join us there again, https://onlinefundraisingsummit.com. And as always, I hope you'll subscribe where you listen so you don't miss out on a single episode. See you in the next one.


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