Terrance DeShaun Smith

Leveraging Storytelling into Story-Doing

T o attract brand ambassadors, advocates, and donors, nonprofits must build a platform and a movement, allowing us to capture attention and communicate with our audience. We must build trust, create an experience, and engage our audience cleanly, clearly and concisely. Building Trust: Patience, Compassion andTolerance Building trust starts with adding real value to an individual, community or organization.We build trust through authen- ticity and relevance, by resonating instead of alienating. We also build agreements be- tween partners to avoid conflict (guide, don’t shove). A collective approach makes it easier for potential participants to find their voice within the movement. Relationship building is an intentional process and a major tool for spreading ideas. Building authentic relation- ships with people who believe what you be- lieve catapults your idea to the next level. Our Evening Education Option Program at the Mobile Area Education Foundation is a program aimed at assisting students ages 17-21 with achieving their high school diploma. Students are generally two or more years behind, with only a 25% chance of high school graduation in the regular setting. In the past 6 years, though, we have helped over 700 students graduate college and be career ready, with graduation rates as high as 83%. Our program builds trust by treating students as individuals. We spend the first few weeks of the school year getting acquainted and assigning the student an advocate counselor, based on attitude, temperament, and personality. For the student to be successful in the program, they must fully trust that we have their best interest at heart. Without trust, there can be no meaningful connection between people. Trust is a collec- tion of small choices made every day, chang- ing the way that we live, love and lead. Our

follower must be embraced as an equal. It’s about the vision and not the leader. Other students will follow their peers, but some will find it difficult to just follow the adult leader, through fear of not appearing to be cool or ridiculed by their peers. The first follower becomes an unofficial student leader, and is embraced as an equal by the advocate counselor.They will also serve as an example to the other students on how they are expected to behave. This is how we create mutually beneficial partnerships between students and adults. Creating a meaningful experience: Immersion and multilayered experiences “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou People can talk you out of your philosophy and tradition, but they can’t talk you out of your experiences. We must ensure that every experience is enjoyable to the end user; enjoyment is at least as important as access. Access without enjoyment could prevent your movement/idea/event from spreading. To create a sense of urgency, understand the importance of and then implement the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). It increases the likelihood of participation if the audience feels that they will miss out. For our students, during the college and career development sessions, we create a sense of urgency in order to create a meaningful experience. Originally, we invited speakers to describe their careers, education, and how to gain entry into those fields. About 50% of the audience lost interest within the first 7 minutes, causing distractions for the other students. So we changed the format of our sessions to create a sense of urgency. Instead of allowing the speaker to speak freely, we requested that each speaker bring a demonstration (prop) with them, thus respecting different learning

care for another person affects the way that person responds to us. When students arrive on campus each evening, they are greeted by a staff member between the parking lot and the front door. The staff member acknowledges the student by name, while taking a mental note of their behavior to gauge the appro- priate level of engagement. Once we have gained students’ trust, they give us access into their lives.Then we start to prioritize the sec- ondary level of student engagement efforts. This step must occur purposefully and inten- tionally. One misstep could set a student back and negate any previous progress. Activate people’s gifts,creatingmutual delight and mutually beneficial partnerships. Share! If you share what you love with the world, then those who share that love will find you. Connect people with complementary people, connecting people and ideas. Our students are members of their advocate counselor’s caseload, but receive individual attention, along with group sessions. During group sessions, the advocate counselor transforms a group of individuals into a fully functioning community of learners. The most transformative method has been to nurture the relationship with the student who shows the most interest in the task at hand, your first follower.The first follower has a dual role; he first transforms a passionate loner into a leader, then provides an example for new followers to emulate the follower, not the leader, thus creating a following.The first

22 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine

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