Need: Moving people to action through stories
Service: Helping frame the stories through writing
As part of their 2011 planning process, Girl Scouts of Western Ohio recognized that the ability to tell their story in a compelling way was integral to their fundraising effort. To help improve their ability to tell the Girl Scout story, Smith Beers Yunker & Co. took the board and key staff members through a process of introspection which was facilitated by senior counselor, Penny Pensak. The goal was to help them better articulate how participation in Girl Scouts impacts the lives of girls.
“We need people to recognize that Girl Scouts goes well beyond crafts, camping and cookies,” says CEO Barbara Bonifas. “In telling our story, we need to emphasize the valuable life lessons that are learned through scouting and carried throughout life. For example, selling cookies is the activity, but teaching financial literacy and goal-setting skills are the reasons for the activity. Going to camp is fun, but learning self-confidence and leadership skills is the real benefit of camp. Penny Pensak provided insight into these not-so-obvious aspects of our story that make it more compelling. ”
As a large organization, Girl Scouts of Western Ohio serves more than 50,000 girls, engages some 15,000 volunteers and employs a staff of 140. Barbara adds that the storytelling exercise was “good for the staff, helping us understand how our role and commitment to the organization has shaped our own lives in positive ways. Penny took us through a process of reaching into ourselves and reflecting on how we have been affected by our own experiences and involvement with the Girl Scouts. This helped us see more clearly the value of sharing personal stories to promote the scouting programs.”
COO Roni Luckenbill comments on the efficiency of the process saying, “Penny very quickly learned about the Girl Scouts and came in understanding who we were so she could ask the right questions and get the group engaged right away. Although it will take some time for this work to impact the entire organization, one immediate benefit was an improvement in our appeal letters that feature personal stories of how real girls have been influenced by their involvement in Girl Scouts.”
Barbara Bonifas notes that this process is one any nonprofit organization can use to its advantage. “I’m not sure people fully recognize the power of storytelling in moving people to action, be it volunteering, giving financial support, or participating in the program. We were very pleased with the work of Smith Beer Yunker and would recommend this process as part of any organizational planning agenda.”