(2 minutes of good reading below)
The Liar’s Bench, a fixture throughout small American towns, was any place – general store, outside the courthouse, under the Elm tree – where people congregated to tell stories.
It was a place to gather, to be entertained and to learn.
We work in an increasingly data and metrics driven world. The stories we tell insert humanity into the numbers and push the pendulum back to center.
Our stories connect us with individuals, explain the people behind the percentages, and create advocates for our work.
5 steps for getting your story ready for the Liar’s Bench
1) Clear Set-up
Start your story with a hook. A sentence or two that sets up what you are talking about and where you want to go.
Example: ‘Last year our ‘Doin’ it Right’ program gave 10 families a better life.
2) Make it personal
Communicate your personal investment in the story. Otherwise, you may sound like you are reciting a script.
Example: In April, I met a great family- Susie, her boyfriend Tom, her 2 boys John and Paul, and their dog Ruffie. I actually met them through Ruffie. We were at the dog park in my neighborhood. I asked if they lived in close by and they told me that they had been living in the Good Samaritan Shelter downtown for six months.
3) Make it Singular
Relate how a single person or family benefitted from the work or program. Concentrating the story on a personal level makes it real for the listener, easy to remember and repeat.
Example: The timing couldn’t have been better because we had just rolled out the ‘Doin’ it Right’ program. It puts stable families on a list for housing and provides basic necessities like clothing and toiletries while they are waiting.
4) Create the ‘Aha’ Moment
Make your story memorable. What is the hook or the turning point that engages your listener? Here is where you can talk about the outcome or result.
Example: Six months later, all 5-including Ruffie-are living in a two-bedroom apartment close to the boy’s school. Susie has the right clothes for job interviews and she finally feels in control of her family’s future.
5) Pay it off
Circle back to the work or program and provide a call to action that realistically tracks with the personal example you have given.
Example: It was amazing. This year, we want to provide 15 more families with the same life changing experience. We’ve already identified 7. There is a lot to do to get them placed.
I would love to get you involved.
Numbers confirm trends. Stories create advocates.
Set it up. Make it real. Pay it off.
Enjoy your seat on the Liar’s Bench!
Want to practice crafting a story?
Join me, and co-leader Don Waisanen, for a storytelling workshop on June 12 at the annual Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Fundraising Day in New York conference.