Storytelling for Board Members: How to Unleash New Energy and Commitment

Storytelling for board members just might be a lost art.

The fact is, most board members simply don’t know what to say when they have the opportunity to talk about their cause! 

Once a board member actually asked me:

“If I get a chance to talk about my nonprofit, what do I say?”

Guess we have some work to do!

Here are some takeaways from the presentation that Lori Jacobwith and I are giving at AFPICON on Sunday. Thought you’d enjoy them!  

Storytelling for board members – it works!

When board members start telling their OWN STORIES, magic can happen!

Watch your board members come alive when they talk about why they care so much about your cause. THIS is how to evoke their passion and energy!

Here’s how to activate their enthusiasm for the cause, and for fundraising.

Here are 5 different stories that board members need to be able to tell – with exercises to support them:

Exercise #1: “Why do I care?”

Wy not ask your board members to share why they care about your cause?

And many may have deeply personal reasons for caring. They may have authentic, burning stories that are part of family legacy, their own history or struggles.

This is their personal story. Here’s how to help them re-discover their personal, authentic connection to your work.

How to set up this exercise: “Why do I care?”

  1. Ask your board members to think about why they care about your cause. What would they say if someone asked them?
  2. Then have them stand, find a partner, and get ready to share their story.
  3. Then say “start!” and give each partner 30 seconds to share his or her story of why they care.
  4. Then say “change partners!” and let them do this again with a new partner.
  5. Run thru 4 or 5 sets of partners so board members can get lots of practice.

This is one of my favorite exercises, every board retreat we do, starts here. 

Exercise #2: Why should someone contribute to our organization?

This one is really easy. After the mingle exercise that I describe above, put board members in small groups of 3-5 people.

Ask them to work as a group and come up with 5 reasons why someone should contribute to your organization.

When your board members discuss this among themselves, I’m always amazed.

How wonderful to hear your board members telling each other how important your cause is and why it deserves support!

And sometimes, board members can nail your case for support better than you can!

Exercise #3: Story about someone who your organization has helped.

Every board member needs a SIMPLE three sentence story about a real person impacted by your nonprofit.

It can be a kid, an animal, a family, a single mother, a grandmother, whoever.

A three-sentence story can go like this:

“There was this kid who . . . . (situation)

And then this happened: . . . . .(drama – crisis)

And we were able to help them this way . . . (happy ending)

Work with them in small groups on this.

Exercise #4: What are we raising money for?

This is a story about where the money goes. 

Bring two or three organizational leaders up to the front, and interview them. Try to get board members to ask questions and generate a discussion.  

  • What difference to private contributions make in our organization?
  • “Why do we even need private contributions anyway?
  • “Why does our work cost so much?
  • “Where exactly does the money go?
  • “How many people are we helping in this program?
  • What else does this program really need? And how much would that cost?
  • “How many people are we missing? What happens to them if we can’t help them?
  • What would we do if we had an additional $500k? 

This exercise takes fundraising away from “money” and makes it about something real. It is amazingly powerful!

Exercise #5: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if?

This is a story about vision and possibility.

Ask each board member to share their idea of what wonderful things could happen if your organization was successful doing it’s amazing work.

I love, love asking board members to share this at the end of one of my workshops. It’s such a powerful visioning exercise!

BOTTOM LINE – Storytelling for board members.

When the board members share their vision for what your organization could possibly accomplish, they are re-igniting their own passion as they speak. You can see their eyes start to shine.

Storytelling for board members is a lost art.This is how to generate some enthusiasm for spreading the word, finding new friends and even fundraising!

These exercises are terrific morale boosters and board members love them!