December 16, 2008 | Categories Nonprofit News

How Stories can Multiply Your Nonprofit’s Impact

Last week, I listened to Gerda Weissmann Klein speak at the school my kids attend. She was simply amazing. She spoke about her experience as a survivor of the Holocaust, but her real message was that we still live in a world where millions of people suffer from intolerance; but it is also a world of great compassion where everyone of us can — and should — do something to make things better.

I was truly inspired and motivated. So I asked myself what I ask my employees when they get excited about something: “So what are you going to do about it?”

  1. I’m going to try to share her message — starting with this post.
  2. I just made a grant recommendation via my donor-advised fund to her foundation
  3. I also thought there were two important lessons I took from this experience that I think are pretty relevant and useful to virtually any non-profit.

Using Storytellers to Multiple Impact

The power of speaking – Would I have been as motivated to make a donation or act if I had received a letter from Gerda? I doubt it. Sure most people aren’t blessed with Gerda Klein’s ability to tell a story, but all you really need is a passion for your cause. Seek out face-to-face opportunities with groups large and small to share your vision and why your mission is important to you. If you provide a clear and specific call to action, I believe many in your audience will be motivated to get involved.

Multiplying your impact – One of the Klein Foundations projects provides teachers with an education kit of materials to assist them in teaching tolerance. It’s been distributed to over 122,000 teachers, and as a result it has been used to teach over 12,000,000 students around the world!

Non-profits can use this same concept of “Multiplicative Effect” by harnessing the power of your constituents’ social networks. Simple viral email campaigns can be used to generate awareness of your mission, advocate social action and of course for fundraising.

Today’s headlines may be disheartening with tales of greed and economic woe, but I for one agree with Gerda Weissman Klein. The world is filled with way too many energetic and caring people to not be optimistic about our ability to solve problems and give our children a better world to grow up in. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be famous, you just have to care. And share your story.

Written by Amanda Foran
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