At our recent 2015 Nonprofit Conference we decided to do things a little differently and scheduled two concurrent breakout sessions. I had the pleasure of attending the Messaging and Storytelling for Impact Giving workshop and introducing the presenter, Terrence McNally, a strategic communications consultant and a workshop leader for The Goodman Center, a nonprofit learning center “where do-gooders learn to do better.”

Terrence graduated from Harvard and decided to go into the entertainment industry where he was an actor, director, screenwriter, songwriter and record producer. After working in the entertainment industry for 20 years, he decided to change career paths and do something that would be fulfilling on a higher level. He became a strategic nonprofit communications consultant, helping foundations, nonprofits and public agencies transform their messaging.

He started off the workshop by going over his background and then describing the key components in telling a compelling story. First, he advises directly addressing the target audience and telling them the purpose of the story. Then, to make a real impact, a nonprofit’s message should have:

  1. A powerful story. A powerful story helps build credibility and trust with individuals
  2. A great piece of data. Some accomplishments that were achieved and the challenges that had to be overcome.
  3. A clear call to action. The purpose of the story and the “ask.”

Terrence then led a storytelling exercise where the groups at each table had to tell a story of a time they really wanted something. The group was able to see how individuals told their story and which individuals from the group had the best story. Terrence emphasized that some qualities of a good story are having details, emotion and meaning.

Terrence then helped us put together what we learned so far about storytelling so that we can help our nonprofits. If you are a nonprofit organization, you should have “core stories.” An organization’s board members and staff should know their core stories by heart. If a board member knows a compelling story, it is easy to share with prospective funders or potential volunteers.

Another great idea Terrence shared with the group was that organizations should try to have a program where the staff can share stories from being in the field. You can even incentivize the staff by offering gift cards to individuals who participate.

I am eager to share all the takeaways from the workshop with my fellow board members at Bienvenidos Children’s Center. I am also looking forward to GHJ’ next workshop to learn more tips, and I’m sure the rest of the workshop attendees would agree!

About Lizbeth Nevarez (Manager, GHJ)

Lizbeth Nevarez has eight years of public accounting experience providing tax and consulting services to nonprofit clients. She is a frequent speaker at the firm’s nonprofit workshops. She has completed the Riordan Leadership Institute program through the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce. The program’s mission is to develop and cultivate business professionals for lifelong service in the nonprofit community.

She currently serves on the board of Bienvenidos Children’s Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing family services, foster care, mental health services and a variety of other family preservation programs.

Lizbeth joined the firm in 2008, after graduating California State University, Northridge where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.

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Lizbeth Nevarez

Lizbeth Nevarez, CPA, has more than 15 years of public accounting experience providing tax and consulting services and is GHJ’s Nonprofit Tax Practice Leader. She is also Secretary for GHJ Foundation, GHJ’s vehicle for purposeful and proactive giving to the community. Additionally, Lizbeth co-leads…Learn More