Why Everyone Should Have a Storybook

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I recently attended a training event about story telling by Rob Woods. Working as a fundraiser, “the story” is an especially essential skill to master in order to win people’s hearts – but its also an important social skill.

We all know have that one friend that always drops a gripping story whenever you meet them; and even if the conversation is a chaotic babble, it’ll get everyone’s attention for up to a solid 3 minutes. So, how can we become more Caitlin (that one friend for me).

  1. Make sure your story has four clear parts or else you might get lost in it:

Who? The problem? What was done? The Result? – stick to this, or any relevant structure and you’ll keep it snappy. The way I do it is to think up the 3 key lines before you start because if you’re trying to tell a story under social pressure you’ll get distracted unless you know where its going.

  1. Keep a storybook:

You need content. As social creatures our lives are filled with stories but too often we hear the best stories when we’re extremely busy, intoxicated, or we may just forget over time.

If you can carry a book dedicated to the stories you hear and write them up under the divisions: Professional, Personal, and whatever other areas are particularly important to you, then you’ll have more genuine and exciting content for your conversations.

Whether you want to cite that time your friend’s Mum hit Benedict Cumberbatch with her car when you’re telling celebrity stories, or, give an incredible client testimonial about your business in a meeting with an investor, you’ll build material that’s both great to use and read back on too.

http://brightspotfundraising.co.uk/ – Rob Woods’ Website

Phoning for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity

I recently took a job fundraising as part of a call centre and so far it has been tough. People don’t have to face you, and when asking for money from strangers the hostilities run wild. This Sunday though I had a rather sweet shift and I thought: hey, why not write about this stuff. Perhaps I should write my own scripts. Great Ormond Street Hospital’s an old one, operating since 1852 and it’s ten beds were the first hospital opened especially for the care of children. Since then over 300 beds have been added and only 50% of children treated are from London, it is a world class institution.

Being briefed on this charity I almost cried because it is something close to my heart. 40% of inpatients are under the age of two, a stat that took my breath away. My dad used to be a lorry driver for a medical firm and he told me how he had met and spoken to some of the children. Walking around looking for someone to sign off in a white coat, he was often mistaken for a doctor. The kids would wave cheerfully from the windows of the wards and when inside he met the most courageous souls. A little boy on crutches particularly grabbed at dad’s heart when he told dad he was dying. My dad told this story to his own children and it’s not hard to picture the devastation of watching a little, innocent, vulnerable body begin to fail. Especially if it’s the same little boy or girl you brought into the world.

I’m pretty sure the passion for a beautiful script was what sold over 50% of my calls to an increased donation and the compassion of the people I called often allowed us both to find a common ground. I will be donating myself to the charity, many people don’t realise quite how little the NHS funds and that the hospital is too a research centre. They need £50million a year for the next ten years to create a duality of good care for both patients and their families.

I think the concept of giving is not so much about keeping the lights switched on in an institution. It’s about sending a token of love to people going through the most helpless and devastating experience they should ever encounter. This is Great Ormond Street: the child first and always.

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Today is the day of my fundraising deadline, and with a lot of work I have finally hit: eight, zero, zero, pounds! I never thought I would do it. From crying to my Mum about the harsh and ungenerous nature of humanity, to screaming at strangers on Oxford Street, this thing has definitely been a tough journey. Though I will never understand why 90% of people make a good deed so gruelling, I can summarise my ICS fundraising experience as incredible. That rare gem of support when you least expect it can keep you smiling for days. This is about what makes and breaks collectors.

I learnt this thing in Psychology ages ago called weapon focus theory. If a man comes at you with a knife, naturally your attention to his face is going to be a little distracted. Exactly the same thing happens with fundraising. If you see someone pointing a bucket at you, you panic. ‘Where is my wallet, is it safe, how can I avoid this.’ You can see the step by step thought process and nothing you say is reassuring. People don’t understand quite how much most collectors would rather hear the word ‘no’, than see that same wounded expression of disgust muddled up in shame. We know we can’t give to every fund, and we can’t always find the time to stop. Its ok to say no, its so much nicer to be treated like a human being.

A second thing that is rather nice is the ‘community of collectors’. Sometimes, you don’t even care what people are collecting for but when you see that helpless person standing uncomfortably on the corner receiving evils for working that good cause, you have to stop and say: ‘I know its tough, well done.’ I’ve had past collectors approach me when collecting, and talking to the India team we’ve found its a common feeling. 

Are they legitimate? Its a totally understandable fear that’s surfaced a few times. I don’t mind when people ask me, in fact its great that people are responsible enough to find out. I can assure you though that any collectors on privately owned land have license to be there, security would boot them out otherwise. If anyone asks you and you’re not sure, just ask their charity number so you can look into the organisation. Anyone has access to these numbers so its no guarantee but it usually cuts out the liars pretty well.

Taking an interest is worth £1000. Even just asking why a bucket collector is giving up their time is an incredible thing to them. The same applies to friends and family when people share a cause. I’m actually rather scared about working in rural India for three months, as I’m sure collectors are about exposing themselves on the streets day after day. I’ve only experienced verbal abuse but it does get worse! When people treat us with respect and appreciation, it makes us feel way better.

And finally, there is no moral high ground. Its a common thing that people feel superior, giving to charity, inferior when they feel they are begging, whatever. It doesn’t really matter. Giving a few coins to somebody means nothing unless you are truly interested in understanding stuff about humanity. If you look into causes, give time, and work on meeting people you get this kind of bug for it. You understand things you never could before and, honestly, I’m not playing saint. I never had it before but in the drive to make my CV look hot I am hooked. You learn so much more because your relationships with people are no longer economic. You step outside of the world where you’ll only talk to people if you have to put up with them or if you want something. You stop clock watching your wages and you start looking at what you can learn from people. Thanks to the Active Change Foundation for the gig.

So, I hope your perspective on fundraisers will be changed forever! Probably not, but its out there. I leave you with the story of walking under Waterloo bridge seeing a Big Issue seller parting the crowd like your modern day Leper. I walked up to him and apologised for only having my card and being in a rush. He thanked me as though I had given him a tenner before stepping into no man’s land to let me walk past. Respect ain’t so hard.