I had the great privilege of not only attending, but also speaking at the Texas Nonprofit Summit last week in Austin.  Over 700 nonprofit professionals, board members, funders, for-profit businesses, government representatives and other community leaders gathered to network, discuss new ideas and resources, learn about the newest trends, and innovative theories and practices.

Right before my presentation, another speaker inspired me with her story.  Jessica Jackley, the founder of KIVA, grew up in a middle-class family and was always taught to help others.  However, images of the “poor” and “disadvantaged” seemed so far out of her scope that is was hard for her to feel like she ever made a difference.

Jessica was always led to believe that she should feel sorry for the people who were less fortunate than she was.  However, when Jessica took a view-altering trip to Africa, everything changed.  She went from believing stories of sadness to envisioning stories of empowerment for women in Africa.

Jessica saw a very real need.  Many women were struggling to work and start their own enterprises because of unfair capital and loan practices.  She was inspired to start KIVA in 2005, the world’s first peer-to-peer microlending website.  KIVA allows users send as little as $25 to poor entrepreneurs around the world, providing capital for them to start or expand their enterprises.   Since it began, KIVA has helped businesses in over 200 countries.  According to Jessica, the relationships we form with each other and the extent to which we believe in each other’s potential are the most powerful forces for positive change.

After being so touched by Jessica’s story, I was excited to speak to a crowd of about 150 people regarding the role of storytelling for nonprofits.  The message of storytelling generally directed to nonprofits is just that they should get their act together so that they can raise more money.  However, like Jessica, I believe you can do more by focusing on the relationships different groups have with your organization.

You can use storytelling to increase your impact if you understand your audiences, and craft custom stories to shape their points of view.  It is essential to reward and praise audiences when they correctly tell the story of your organization as well as utilize low-cost platforms such as social media to tell simple, sharable stories that create an emotional connection between your audience and your cause.  Nonprofits must not only decide how much information each audience needs, but also how/where they need to be reached and how often.  At Too Good Strategy, we focus on identifying specific audiences and targeting them in the meaningful ways so we can make the message your nonprofit is sending out more impactful.

Check out this link to my presentation.