Serendipity through stories

2016mcntech.jpgOn April 12, YNPN Twin Cities sent a dozen members to the MCN Nonprofit Technology and Communications Conference at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis as part of our scholarship program. The week after the conference, we hosted a debriefing gathering for the conference cohort so they could further connect and share about what they learned at the conference.

One member of the cohort is Amy Tix, operations coordinator at Firefly Sisterhood. Below, Amy graciously shares her "a-ha moment" from the conference with takeaways from keynote speaker Perla Ni.

serendipity.jpgAren’t you amazed when serendipity happens in the most unlikely places? At the coffee shop when a perfect table opens up just as you get your drink. In the car on your commute home when every single traffic light is green. While boarding an airplane the seat next to you remains empty. From a conference speaker whose presentation exactly addresses your latest workplace challenges.

Yes, you read the last one correctly. I found serendipity at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Technology & Communications Conference on April 12. While all of the breakout sessions were valuable, the keynote speaker, Perla Ni, captured my attention with her presentation: Using Stories to Level the Playing Field.

Listening to Perla, it quickly became evident that stories can be the key to success for a nonprofit such as ours. At Firefly Sisterhood, we match newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with inspirational survivors for one-to-one connections, and stories are a natural outcome of our work. But unlike the obvious stories from our volunteers and clients, the stories from our staff (some of whom are survivors themselves), our referring organizations, and from our donors need to be captured and shared as well. As an organization, we need to encourage, enable, and invite these groups to tell their stories, whether it be through social media, events, small focus groups, or in writing.

Equally important is the story that is told through photographs and video clips. Perla recommended that both data and text should always be accompanied by the visual appeal of graphics, photos, videos, and/or sound clips. The graphic story can add interest, activate engagement, and nurture an emotional connection to the written or oral story or to impersonal charts, graphs, and other numerical data. I think you'll agree that the story of Firefly Sisterhood is better told through our video than by my written words above.

But how should our busy nonprofit collect these stories? Through many personal examples, Perla suggested using simple tools that are fast and convenient and getting as many stories as possible in writing so key phrases and quotes can be extricated and used purposely: on the web, as Tweets, and in reports. She reminded us to capitalize on the contagiousness of storytelling by hosting gatherings where donors, clients, or partner organizations can come together to share their own stories to add additional depth and richness.

With stories collected, archived for future use, and shared with donors, potential referral sources, and clients, perhaps one of the last ideas for what to do with these stories is the most critical: give them back to the storyteller. Show that person how their story is being used, share the results from surveys, and publish stories on our website. In Perla’s words, “People like to see their stories published and in print.”

At Firefly Sisterhood, we're excited to capture new and varied stories that can be used in creative, engaging, and stimulating ways that will continue to grow and develop our nonprofit. My participation in this conference? Serendipitous, and perhaps that has made all of the difference!

Hope, Connect, Shine!

amytix.jpgAmy Tix is operations coordinator at Firefly Sisterhood and a member of YNPN Twin Cities.

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