Take few steps into the National Steinbeck Centre in Salinas, California, and you will come across this quote: “If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.” It is from Steinbeck’s classic novel East of Eden. As I read Steinbeck’s work, I often pause and marvel at how succinctly he captures a complex idea and presents it in a few unpretentious words. The quote above is an excellent example. If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. The takeaway for the nonprofit sector is this: if the case for your cause is not about the hearer, he will not listen.
I review a lot of cases for support. The most common mistake I see is a case that is about the organization and its needs, not about the hearer. If that describes your case, you’ll be amazed at how a shift in the narrative will change donor interaction. An effective case is about the donor, the community he or she cares for, the impact of giving and the opportunity to invest in something that will make a difference.
My tip for a better case for support–take the Steinbeck quote, print it and feature it prominently on your office wall. Let is seep into you and into your work. Let it be the litmus test as you develop your written case, and as you pick up your phone to talk to a donor, and as you mingle at your gala, and as you update your website, and, and, and. Let me know how it works for you.
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