When Stories Matter
Years ago, I was a boy scout in Charleston, W.Va., for a relatively short period of time. I enjoyed the experience but was faced with the dilemma of either continuing in scouting or playing little league baseball. I must say that baseball won the day but the positive memory of my scouting experience has stayed with me through the years.
Fast forward to my recent experience at a Boy Scouts of America breakfast fundraiser hosted by the mayor of Greenwood, Ind. A wonderful associate who invited me also kindly introduced me to a large number of his friends and associates at our table. I knew what was expected at the breakfast and brought a check to the proceedings. My joy in attending was validated when I immediately saw a number of young boys in Boy Scout uniforms welcome me.
While sitting in my seat getting ready to listen to the program, I had a flashback. I had attended a function in Michigan several years earlier for Eagle Scouts—individuals who achieve the highest rank attainable in scouting. The crowd and the continued impact scouting had on these individuals amazed me. Many former Eagle Scouts at this function were lawyers, doctors and executives in their chosen fields. A physician friend had invited me to this activity. I knew scouting provided a very positive influence on the young men's growth and development, which continued throughout their lives.
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. This organization—founded Feb. 8, 1910 by Chicago publisher William Boyce—provides programs for young people that build character and train them in the responsibilities of participating in citizenship plus develops personal fitness. Today, scouting is located in 190 of the world’s 195 independent countries. Total membership in this organization is more than 3.5 million.
What affected me at the Boy Scout breakfast in Greenwood was the pitch for funding support. An Eagle Scout told, in story form, that he was influenced in scouting through making friends, learning skills, camping, cooking food, having outside adventures and seeking leadership opportunities. A former scout leader, who continues to be engaged in scouting after 63 years, followed by telling stories of how scouting influenced him and scores of boys through the years. It was very inspiring. He noted that many of the scouts he influenced through the years had no father figures, were low income and without hope before their scouting experiences. Scouting changed their lives for the better.
We were gently asked to give at our table. The mayor of Greenwood noted that scouting provided discipline, honor and respect. These are all values that I aspire to in my life. He told us stories of how local scouts have given much to society and are leaders of tomorrow. He emphasized that giving today was for the future of society. He had me at "hello" as his remarks touched me and everyone at our breakfast table. This breakfast generated $18,275, a record for the event. It was grassroots fundraising at its finest.
This event proved that storytelling and providing living, current examples of how funds are used stimulates joyful giving. One of the best ways to generate funds is through this vehicle plus an array of testimonials to reinforce the case for support. Your goal in the solicitation process is to show passion and emotion. Use facts wisely and you will have joyful givers. Going to that fundraising breakfast validated my choice in going into the nonprofit profession so many years ago. I can still remember with pride marching and representing the Boy Scouts in a West Virginia parade. Stories that make you think and remember do matter and provide the forum for the fundraising process to be transformational instead of transactional in nature.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.