Connection, Conversation and Hot Chocolate

Our storytelling theme for this month is on honing and delivering your elevator pitch to
engage a potential donor. The main components for accomplishing these are, essentially,
the same components in effective communication. Be prepared with a personally
compelling message. Be present in the moment. Be interested in what the other person
is saying. Listen.

I invite you to listen to three voices with deep experiences in verbal communication and making connections. One of them even has a way to make your voice feel rich and warm like hot chocolate.

Celeste Headlee, Julian Treasure, Kare Anderson

You can also read my latest blog entry The best elevator pitch is about you.
It forms a good pairing with this podcast. Enjoy!

The best elevator pitch is about you.

The door opens, you both step into the car and she pushes the button for the lobby.
It’s a few floors down so you decide to strike up a conversation about the event that you just attended. She then asks: “What do you do?”

Surely, you’ve had several opportunities to deliver your elevator pitch without having
to actually be inside an elevator. However, knowing a definitive cutoff for the encounter
demands brevity and a stunning ability to leave a lasting impression on the other person. How do you make the best use of this moment?

One can argue that you can never be ready for a chance encounter that could lead to a
potentially large gain for your nonprofit. Granted that each time is unique, you can still have a game plan that will help you to begin from a point of clarity and confidence.

Stick with the basics.
Your pitch must be grounded by answering three questions:

  1. Who is served by your mission?
  2. How do they benefit?
  3. Why does it matter to you?

The first two can be lifted directly from your website. The third should be centered
around YOU.

Come from a genuine place.
A dear friend and mentor once told me, “More important than your message is your
relationship with your message.”
At that particular moment, the person talking to you
is interested in you. Information that reveals who you are will do a better job holding
his attention during the short ride. Therefore, by all means, make it personal.

“Our mission matters so much to me because…”
“Working in this nonprofit gives my life meaning and purpose because…”

Your pitch is not a list.
Too often, I hear nonprofit staff rattle off their programs while the other person’s gaze starts to wander. Once you lose eye contact with the other person, they have a great excuse to disengage. Your audience will remain captive with a conversation, not a set of bullet points.

Be an opportunity maker.
Now that you have her undivided attention, she may want to spend a few more minutes with you even after you’ve both left the elevator. This is your chance to switch the focus and make it about the other person. What can she gain from this brief encounter? Can she learn about recent critical developments in your field? Can he benefit from meeting someone on your board? At this point, be an active listener.

Seth Godin said, “The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener
eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it.” 

Your pitch scales your mission down to a human level for the other person to grasp.
By making it personal and meaningful for yourself, your passion for the cause will easily come across in an authentic manner. This is what resonates with your listeners. It will make them want to continue the conversation and find their own meaning in your mission.

If you’re interested in how Barkada Circle can guide you in honing your elevator pitch, send us an email or call us at (773) 852-3522.

Story – It’s Your Secret Sauce

If you’re a foodie like me, you probably have a secret recipe for every occasion that gets people talking. For summer, my grilling ritual is never without a special marinade. Any meat or vegetable gets soaked overnight to absorb the herbs and spices for a tender and savory finish. Works every time!

I wrapped up my summer with a speaking engagement at Forefront HQ where they hosted the 2017 cohort of the YNPN Chicago Leadership Institute. I touched on the importance of integrating storytelling with finance. Prior to my talk, Forefront’s Chief Operating Officer Andreason L. Brown gave a presentation that clarified the difference between financial management and financial leadership. His final talking point provided the perfect setup for my opening:  Are organizational decision making and finance integrated in your nonprofit?

Effective leadership uses a strategic approach to coordinating the decision making process across all managements functions. It requires seeing the organization through a wider lens and understanding more deeply how mission guides every single activity.

It is common practice to start with developing a strategy. Barkada Circle® takes one extra step up. We begin by marinating stakeholders in story.

Immersive Storytelling: Prepping for Strategy

Having participated in several nonprofit board and staff meetings, I’ve observed how many come to the table and advocate for their own agenda. The plan tends to be a watered down list of actions that hopes to appease everyone without getting to a real solution.

At Barkada Circle®, we realize that an organization’s goals and objectives have to be rooted in its identity which is best defined through the foundational narrative. This comes to life during a comprehensive visioning process where stakeholders share their stories that make their personal connections to the mission become vivid for each other. They begin to see their common experiences, aspirations and hopes for the cause.

What began as individual agendas eventually converge into one agenda–ready for effective strategic planning with everyone on the same page.

Sustaining What Works

When we share stories within our organization on a regular basis, we begin to see patterns that tell us what’s working. We also discover gaps that need to be addressed and solved. Storytelling is intrinsic in every organizational function. In finance, particularly, story gives context and meaning to the numbers. Only then will data become valuable for decision making.

Storytelling sparks essential conversations that we otherwise wouldn’t have with our staff, manager, co-worker and volunteers. Engaging in real dialogue that changes the way we see other people and ourselves can create opportunities for taking the human dynamics to a whole new level.

What is transformational is also what sustains us.

Storytelling to Build our Tribe and Preserve our Culture

Since the beginning of human history, stories have shaped culture and people’s way of life. It’s where their identity is deeply rooted. It’s how families, tribes and communities keep their legacies alive.

Listen to three storytellers, each with a compelling case inviting us, as individuals, to seek the truth about cultures outside of our own. For it is through listening to the personal stories of others that we can fully understand the world around us, realize what truly matters, and get clarity on how to preserve our own humanity.

Elizabeth Lindsey, Chimamanda Adichie, Dalia Mogahed

Transcripts:
Elizabeth Lindsey
Chimamanda Adichie
Dalia Mogahed

Storytelling Begins with Listening

As a child growing up in the Philippines, I enjoyed listening to the adults in my family tell stories. I recall one afternoon when relatives came to visit. My cousins were outside playing while I was sprawled on the floor of the living room drawing pictures on sheets of paper that Dad brought home from work. He and Mom sat with my aunts and uncles around the table to enjoy a light merienda of rice cakes and fruit juice. I remember trying hard to stay still and quiet while listening in awe to stories about their lives in the rural provinces. Having been raised in urban Manila, I was transfixed by new images conjured from the imagination of a young mind. At the same time, I was transported to a new place.

Listening to a live storyteller is like opening a human book. Not only do you get the words, but you also get the actual emotions from their voices and facial expressions. The Human Library Organization is a global movement that uses the power of personal storytelling to foster dialogue about social issues. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, the organization secures spaces in libraries, educational institutions and conferences for people to engage in transformative storytelling.

Barkada’s goal for storytelling is three-fold: to spark conversation, to change people’s perceptions, and to influence their behavior. We have to transport them to a different place where they gain a new consciousness and a new way of seeing–a new human perspective.

Listening to those who can affect change is the first step to engaging them. It opens the door for them to be heard which in turn opens a window for them to listen.

Story begets story. It’s an emergent form of communication that naturally sparks conversation. The more stories are shared, the more learning happens to change people’s worldview.

Learning forges relationships. In time, a level of trust is formed between the people who now share a common perspective. When we build community around a shared narrative, we are able to find meaning in our actions for creating change.

Begin with the willingness to listen first. It sets you on a course to rediscover your young mind, set it free, and let your imagination transport you to a new place. Then invite others to share your vision and work with you to realize this place for all who need it.

America, Americana, and the price we pay to be free

In Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, we’ve got cool summer weather perfect for enjoying the outdoors and some great grilling. The 4th of July was a time to celebrate our victories as a nation, to celebrate our freedom, and to express our patriotism. But what does this all mean? What is freedom in today’s context?

What does it mean to be an American, to value our liberties and recognize that others share that same freedom with us? I invite you to listen to stories that reveal the truth about the men and women who fight for our country’s freedom – not romanticized, not idealized. It’s what most of us don’t see, don’t know about, or sometimes, even choose to ignore.

I would also like to introduce you to Rolfe Neigenfind who describes his music as embodying the spirit of Americana with roots in the Blues. A native of North Carolina, Rolfe made his home in Rogers Park once. He now lives in Nashville. I’ll be playing songs from his latest album Chicago available on iTunes.

Listen. Reflect. Celebrate

Wes Moore, Rolfe Neigenfind, Sebastian Junger

Land of Opportunity

Many people seem to have forgotten that America was built by immigrants and refugees. Throughout history, they’ve contributed to the fabric of this nation. But today, in the media and in public debate, refugees are routinely portrayed as a burden and, on many occasions, as a threat.

Listen to three thought-leaders share their stories of struggle and hope, and a belief in a moral compass that is still alive in the hearts of all Americans.

ted_immigration2
Alexander Betts, Sayu Bhojwani, Tan Le

How about a New Year’s resolution to preserve our humanity?

I’ve realized that we gain wisdom and compassion when we let people tell their own stories. I invite you to pause in the next few days remaining in 2016 and listen to a moving, heartfelt and at times funny talk by someone who has walked the path. I hope it will give you as much new insight and inspiration as it had given me, or even more.

Brené Brown: Human Connection
“…Religion has gone from ‘I believe in faith and mystery’ to certainty–‘I’m right. You’re wrong. Shut up.’ This is what politics is today. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. We try to perfect, most dangerously, our children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. Our job is not to make them perfect. Our job is to tell them that they’re worthy of love and belonging…”
[ted id=1042]

Andrew Solomon: Identity and Meaning
“…We don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences. We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it’s purposeful…”
[ted id=2005]

Bryan Stevenson: Justice
“…We love innovation. We love technology. We love creativity…There is no disconnect around technology and design that will allow us to be fully human until we pay attention to suffering, to poverty, to exclusion, to unfairness, to injustice…Ultimately, our humanity depends on everyone’s humanity…”
[ted id=1378]

Breaking the Silence

On Saturday, October 15, I volunteered to help raise awareness for suicide prevention. People gathered in the mist at 6:00 a.m. to set up for the Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Community Walk by Grant Park in Chicago. As daylight came, so did the people wearing colorful t-shirts to remember loved ones they lost to suicide. There were 4,300 registered walkers and the event raised more than $700,000 for vital research and programs.

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Suicide is a serious public health problem that takes an enormous toll on families, friends, classmates, co-workers, and communities, as well as on our military personnel and veterans.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014–the most recent year for which full data is available–someone in the United States died by suicide every 12.9 minutes. This makes it the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, but unlike many other leading causes, suicide continues to claim more lives each year.

To know the reason for someone’s suicide death is challenging. Research has shown that most people who die by suicide have a potentially treatable mental disorder at the time of their death. The disorder has often gone unrecognized and untreated. What we know about the causes of suicide is lagging behind that of other life-threatening illnesses because the stigma surrounding suicide has limited society’s investment in vital research.

Having heard the stories of volunteers made me realize that even when our lives appear fine from the outside, locked within can be a world of quiet suffering, leading some to the decision to end their life. During his TEDTalk in March 2011, JD Schramm asks us to break the silence surrounding suicide and suicide attempts, and to create much-needed resources to help people trying to fully reclaim their lives after escaping death.

Since its founding in 1987, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has connected tens of thousands of people who have lost a family member, loved one or friend to suicide and help them cope. AFSP has reached thousands of individuals who are at risk for suicide, as well as those who love and care for them to make prevention possible. In order to help people understand the facts, AFSP has gained the participation of members of the scientific and clinical communities, who conduct groundbreaking research on suicide and its prevention. To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages individuals and families, scientists and legislators, and community organizations in essential dialogue to increase awareness, understanding and support for those impacted by suicide.

It is a journey in which everyone must participate because the stories surrounding suicide reflects what’s happening in our homes, our schools and our communities. The more we openly talk about it and listen, the better we can see and act.

To find out more, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org.

The Power of Story to Preserve our Cultures and our Species

Since the beginning of human history, stories have shaped culture and people’s way of life. It’s where their identity is deeply rooted. It’s how families, tribes and communities keep their legacies alive.

Listen to three storytellers, each with a compelling case inviting us, as individuals, to seek the truth about cultures outside of our own. For it is through listening to the personal stories of others that we can fully understand the world around us, realize what truly matters, and get clarity on how to preserve our own humanity.

Elizabeth Lindsey, Chimamanda Adichie, Dalia Mogahed
Elizabeth Lindsey, Chimamanda Adichie, Dalia Mogahed