Telling Your Story


A fundraising lesson from Engage

Recently, Engage Kansas City offered a free workshop for area arts and culture nonprofits. Our goal? To take two hours, and impart all the knowledge of what is normally a one-day seminar on storytelling grounded in mission.

Here’s a question: does your UPS driver (or someone else who visits your office frequently) know your mission? Our missions should be compact and they should be communicable to a variety of audiences. Many of the participating organizations discussed “missions by committee,” which end up being a wordsmithing exercise with difficult results. Be decisive, be concise. Then, use your compact mission to create a dynamite case statement. Use these case statements to give your mission a personal voice. Tell a story of impact.

Participants engaged with Simon Sinek‘s Golden Circle to evaluate their missions:

Simon Sinek's Golden Circle


Then, using this breakdown of their missions, they created a case for support. They were encouraged to evaluate the basics:

  • What is it that we do?
  • What need(s) do we address?
  • What makes us uniquely capable to meet this need?
  • Define your need for philanthropic support.
  • What specific strategic opportunities will that support make possible?
  • In what direct, tangible ways are the lives of specific people in your community made better by your activities and programming?
  • What is the most likely objection you might face in a funding request?

And then, participants Engaged! They worked with small groups to workshop their case statements, and shared with all in a “competition” for a fictional grant. As M-AAA has seen with this program, learning from others going through similar experiences is one of the best tools of all.

TIP: Never start your case statement (or funding application) by stating the obvious. Many funders see multiple requests beginning with “We are a 501(c)3 organization…” Instead, get straight to the point and hook your reader within the first three sentences.

BONUS JOKE: Why do nonprofit staffers eat M&Ms? Because Mission Matters!