Editors Note: I love getting feedback and hearing about how a conversation, a coaching time or something I’ve worked on or created has been able to inspire or educate. So I thought it’d be a good idea to have some of the people who are doing amazing and creative things talk about how we intersect. Today’s post is from Brad Voigt, he’s an amazing guy that has been leading within YoungLife for several years. I asked him to share some of his thoughts on The Non-Profit Narrative. Take it away Brad!
Seth Godin says every organization has a tribe. The three criteria of a tribe are: 1. People are connected to an idea. 2. People are connected to a leader. 3. People are connected to one another. When I read this about four years ago I felt my role as a non-profit leader shift. Ten years of non-profit leadership in the same community and it felt like we were losing ground. There wasn’t the same buzz in the air although we were doing the same good work we had done previously. It almost felt like everyone was distracted or somehow our audiences’ attention span had shortened.
So I set out to read as much as I could, I desired to be the leader the tribe needed. However, stress followed me around, not only were we losing attention in our community but year after year we were not gaining ground on a deficit we had carried for over ten years.
Fast forward to May 9th, 2012, I’m doing what all great leaders do when finances are tight…I was checking Twitter. Across my feed comes a tweet about a new book on Amazon about Non-Profit story telling. Plus, it’s FREE on the Kindle for a limited time! This was a no brainer right? I immediately downloaded the book and start tearing my way though it. Three days later and I’m through the whole book. When I finish it feels like I finally received the training I wanted for 12 years.
Connecting with people as a leader and connecting these people to one another was not holding me back as a tribe leader. But Dan’s book taught me how to connect people to an idea, this is where I felt the struggle. For years I thought the “idea” our tribe needed to connect to was a vision statement. I was so wrong. The “idea” people wanted to be connected to was not a simple tagline, they wanted to be connected to a story. An amazing story playing out in the north suburbs of Kansas City where some kids have everything they need and other kids have hardly anything. The story has amazing characters from adult volunteers, staff, teachers, donors, parents, and kids. At the heart of the story is an organization, which calls these characters into action becoming the hero for local high school kids.
Dan’s book taught me our organization is on the Hero’s Journey. I started to recognize our inciting incident, the reason we must move forward for local kids. I stopped sharing only the positives to our tribe because I learned great stories are filled with struggle. People relate to struggle. Fast forward to now and our tribe is more engaged than ever. After nearly 14 years of barely making it within our annual budget and trying to get a very large deficit off our back we conquered our financial issues. We didn’t see a significant increase in “new” donors. Instead, we saw a significant increase in our tribe in every resource: financial, time, labor, etc.
I want to thank the Portnoy Media Group, and especially Dan for being so generous. This new way of seeing our story and communicating it the right way has energized our local organization. We’ve stopped inviting people into our organization and now invite people to participate in an incredible story! Make sure you have read the Non-Profit Narrative!