Telling Your Story | sharing your mission

As many of you know, I have changed my career track a bit in the past year.  I have gone from full-time work in Christian camp ministry to full-time work in a creative online endeavor…which is how this site has become so intricately connected to NellieBellie and Savvy Sites.  At times, this huge life transition means that I sometimes feel a disconnect between my NellieBellie work and camping ministry.  Other people sharing resources for camps and nonprofits are in the trenches, working out what they write, sharing based on current problems.  And I can feel like I am lacking in experience, and even the right to share with you.

But at other times I am able to see how my current distance is allowing me an incredible perspective, a perspective that is desperately needed in the camping and nonprofit world today.

Because I am no longer involved with nonprofit work on a daily basis, my interactions with nonprofits come in spurts.  Whether I am speaking at a conference, hosting my own conference, or chatting with a nonprofit in a one-on-one setting, I have to work a little bit harder to understand the world in which they work.  Because I am no longer in it.  At least, not daily.

And as I am interacting, I am realizing more and more how badly nonprofits need to learn to tell their stories.

When I interact with nonprofits and camps, the first questions are always about who they are and what their focus is.  And generally, this question is answered just fine.  We know what our missions are (this is a really great starting point!)  But the conversation starts to break down when we start to talk about how we are advertising or marketing our organizations.  This breakdown isn’t always because of the word “marketing”, as can often happen, but because we sound like broken records.

An update is posted on social media, but the updates don’t get to the heart of what they do.
A newsletter is sent out, but they are filled with facts and figures and basic updates, without any real passion.
Churches hear about the work, but only skim the surface of what they do or use it as a chance to simply call for funds.
Annual fundraisers are hosted, but don’t maximize the potential for storytelling and sharing their unique mission.

You get the picture.  It seems like nonprofits are just going through the motions, without paying any real attention to how their organizations are being perceived.

And now that I am out of the midst of the non-profit world, I can tell you with more certainty (and a less tainted perspective) that nonprofits are not being perceived in the kind of light they would wish to be.  If they are being noticed at all.  And it isn’t that people have a mistrust of them, or dislike their work.  It’s simply that people don’t understand the big picture.

They see an organization giving cans of food out.
They see a camp offering a fun summer to kids.
They see a church helping people with addiction.

But all of us know that is just the tip of the iceberg!  The story is much grander and more beautiful than those simple sentences!  But, since we are not telling our stories well, people rarely see beneath the surface.

Telling our stories well isn’t easy, but we need to strive for better.

I don’t have a “how-to” ready to go on this process, because I don’t think it exists.  But the problem, and question of how to fix it, needed to be raised.  Hopefully, as we recognize the problem, we can begin the conversations that will start to fix it.

Articles that may touch on this topic:

How I Learn Best: Experiential Education


Ministry or Business?

Clarifying your camp’s Purpose

How to Talk About your Campsite


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