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Nonprofit Storytelling: How the Power of 'Why' Can Increase Advocates, Donations

by Ray Gary  |  
October 27, 2016
  |  2,380 views

You may recall Simon Sinek's brilliant TED Talk from a few years back, "The Power of Why." During his 20-minute talk, Simon discussed a powerfully simple model for leadership: inspiration. Among other things, he highlighted the difference between how Apple and other tech companies approach their brands, and the reasons many people choose Apple.

What Simon pointed out, and what most of us know, is that Apple leads with its core values and beliefs in all of its communication.

Apple knew first and foremost that through its brand it wanted to establish a personal connection to buyers and demonstrate a shared belief with every product it introduced. "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it," said Simon.

That strategy isn't just for tech companies. If other industries, such as nonprofits, would adopt this mindset, they'd move the needle a lot faster and connect to their customers more effectively. The truth is, nonprofits struggle to find their voice in storytelling. But the answer is simple: Do as Simon says—concentrate on the power of Why.

If you are part of a nonprofit struggling to gain donor support, get your team in the same room and ask yourselves two questions.


1. What's your mission? Do you, your board, and your staff know how to communicate the mission clearly? You'd be surprised how differently missions are communicated, depending on who is doing the talking. Start bringing your mission to the forefront of all your communications.

For example: place your mission on top of all meeting agendas, whether it's a board, staff, or committee meeting. Then make it a point to discuss whether all decisions made in the meeting clearly support the mission.

2. What's your 'Why'? Do you truly know why donors give? Why volunteers support you with their time and talents? Why community members participate in programs? Why advocates raise awareness?


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Ray Gary is CEO of iDonate, provider of digital fundraising solutions for nonprofits.

LinkedIn: Raymond Gary

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