Take Away: Personal, sensory experience of your mission spurs authentic storytelling
Despite good intentions, the Zoo’s corporate fundraising committee wasn’t making much progress. The committee met monthly, but hadn’t gotten many gifts. A class I had taken in animal handling gave me an idea. At our next meeting, I greeted the committee as usual; I distributed agendas, and excused myself… to return draped in a five-foot long python named Lulu.
I learned one thing fast:
Some people don’t like snakes.
Chairs tumbled. Executives flew across the room. Once things calmed down, I showed them how to stroke the back of the snake’s head, how she was dry, not slimy, and had heat sensors that enabled her to hunt in the dark. I told them how her species was threatened by habitat-destruction and trade in exotic pets. I also told them what the Zoo was doing to protect snakes like Lulu and her ecosystem.
Could they have learned that info from our website? Absolutely. But in our hi-tech world, touching a python (versus reading about it online,) is pretty cool. The committee left with a great story and a new assignment: to bring five people to a behind-the-scenes tour that showcased Lulu. On each visit, the committee members relayed their experience with infectious enthusiasm, reinforcing their own commitment to the Zoo, and engaging others to do the same.
Volunteers speak best from personal experience. Let these examples get your creative juices flowing:
1. Katie Pastuzek of Outward Bound got her Mayor and major donors to rappel down a skyscraper, dramatizing the confidence and self-reliance youth gain from her program.
2. The crumbling ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site draws 100,000+ visitors to their haunted “house” each fall. Actors play ghouls, complete with make-up, costume, and specific characters. Several donors get to become one of those ghouls for a night.
3. One year, Friends of the American Philosophical Society got to hold one of Lewis and Clark’s expedition journals in their own hands. The journal was opened to a personal account of the men’s arrival in the Pacific Northwest.
“May you live all the days of your life.” Jonathan Swift
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