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Q&A with Story Artist & Workshop Trainer Susan O’Halloran

Susan O’Halloran

Just three slots remain for this Thursday’s, Telling Your Organization’s Story To Move People To Action workshop.

We caught up with author, story artist and noted speaker Susan O’Halloran, as she preps for this week’s training.

Why is storytelling so important in nonprofit communications?

Simply put, our society wouldn’t function without nonprofits. From fulfilling basic needs of food, shelter and medical care to artistically expressing the triumph of the human spirit – and everything in between – the quality of our lives would be greatly diminished without the work of nonprofits.

And, yet, the public, the press, future leaders and even funders are just not hearing about all the lives nonprofits touch and all they accomplish.

Nonprofit communicators can learn to tell compelling stories that:

• clear up misconceptions

• enroll even more volunteers and attracts the best people to hire

• generate partnerships with other agencies

• create buzz in the media

• and enlist champions in the legislature and with individual funders

Whether speaking with the press, fundraising, enlisting volunteers or even getting co-workers motivated and enthused – learning to tell your story and helping other people in your program to tell theirs will give you the ability to communicate clearly, to confirm your legitimacy, to move and persuade people and to let others know the goals and accomplishments of your organization.

What do you find most people have trouble with when crafting their stories?

As we move from childhood to adulthood gaining more knowledge, we talk more and more abstractly. We talk in the language of statistics, theories, explanations and opinions.
Nothing wrong with that, but story language is a kind of language that opens up other worlds through sensory images.

A good description will make your mind – and your body – think it’s there. Which means you can take your audience to work with you. You can put them in your rehearsal studio or homeless shelter and cause them to experience your good work for themselves. You can put your audience in time and space machines and transport them to your cause in action. They will experience your organization. It takes practice, but nonprofit communicators can re-learn this sensory, descriptive language.

The second hurdle is to get nonprofit communicators to talk about problems. But you actually gain more credibility if you tell a story about how your organization overcame a challenge than if you try to promote, “Everything is just fine here.” What gets a story started is that there’s a problem, a challenge, a mess or a situation. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but there does have to be action. Something needs to be happening. As human beings we are endlessly interested in finding out how each of us solves our problems (and happy to find out others have challenges as well). A story is not a collection of ideas, themes or even images. It can take awhile for nonprofit communicators to unearth a situation that will show what they are trying to express. Helping people structure their stories to hold people’s interest is demanding but pure magic when it happens.

What do workshop participants talk about the most after your training?

Nonprofits must slice through the information clutter to be seen and heard. Their good works and good intentions are not enough to capture people’s attention and commitment. Participants leave the workshop understanding the power of story and excited to use this tool more effectively. They realize they have many stories to tell and, now, they know how to tell them.

Register today for Telling Your Organization’s Story To Move People To Action, as this workshop will sell out.

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