Does your United Way have a volunteer or staff person dedicated to telling stories and communicating with your donors and community members?
United Way of Greater Portland (Portland, Maine) not only has one person, but two people on staff who are dedicated to sharing stories, and their job titles reflect that: Jessica Esch, LUbrarian, and Suzi Piker, Chief Storyteller.
Jessica Esch, LUbrarian at United Way of Greater Portland, is an illustrator, sketchnoter, and storyteller, and as a full-time artist and master connector, Jessica’s work is reshaping how United Way interacts with the local community and world at large. In 2011, she spearheaded the design and launch of United Way of Greater Portland’s LUbrary, the Live United storytelling library of videos and illustrations.
Suzi Piker, Chief Storyteller at United Way of Greater Portland, is an award-winning digital journalist, video producer, and storyteller with a focus on audio, video, and multimedia. Suzi develops unique digital content that reflects the organization’s goals and mission.
As United Way of Greater Portland’s storytellers, Jessica and Suzi create the content and then share it with the help of the entire organization via e-mail, social media, etc. Suzi Piker, Chief Storyteller at United Way of Greater Portland, said: “Because Jessica Esch and I create the work in-house, we can experiment and be responsive to current needs."
In 2011, United Way of Greater Portland’s CEO/President, Suzanne McCormick, recognized that every organization is a media organization in today’s digital world and began investing in staff and infrastructure to understand and capitalize on the opportunities of the new media landscape. United Way of Greater Portland created the Live United storytelling library (LUbrary) to create and share stories that will increase the knowledge and understanding of United Way of Greater Portland and its work in the community, and the issues affecting Cumberland County.
United Way of Greater Portland’s LUbrary Web page includes videos and illustrations, which tell the story of who they are and what they do, communicate the importance of issues in the community, and thank donors.
On the homepage of their Web site, United Way of Greater Portland shares images and links to the videos on the LUbrary Web page and has a tab to the LUbrary page at the top of their Web site. Also included on their homepage is this definition:
Their stories are available not only at the LUbrary, but are being told in the community, as well. United Way of Greater Portland is communicating stories that highlight people who Live United by volunteering, giving, and advocating throughout Cumberland County, as part of their year-long series called “Greater Portland is My United Way.” The audio stories are being aired monthly on local radio stations and can be found on their Web site.
United Way of Greater Portland’s focus on storytelling is part of their year-round engagement strategy to build and strengthen relationships with donors and community members. Their storytelling content creates, sustains, and grows interest in United Way’s mission and work. United Way of Greater Portland has had very positive feedback regarding the LUbrary and their storytelling efforts, and according to Suzi Piker and Jessica Esch, “the success of the work can be measured not only in metrics (shares, views, impressions), but also through qualitative feedback that suggests their work is hitting its mark.”
United Way of Greater Portland’s storytelling, including the LUbrary and most recent project “Greater Portland is My United Way,” is a great example of communicating and sharing stories with donors and community members, and doing it well. It is so important to share stories about your United Way’s impact in the community, the importance of the issues you are addressing, and real stories about community members who are involved with your United Way, and to use multiple methods of communication to get your message out, just as United Way of Greater Portland is doing.
In our research, we have found that donors want you to use stories, statistics, and trust and accountability in your communication with them, and it is important to use multiple methods of communication, in order to reach everyone. Check out our free webinar on communicating stories, statistics, and trust and accountability.
According to Suzi Piker and Jessica Esch, “United Way of Greater Portland created the LUbrary to do more than broadcast the value of their United Way – it was intended to showcase the work and the issues that impact their community. While each piece is intended to stand on its own and the mediums may vary, each story is grounded in the belief that we are better together.”
Share stories at your United Way to engage your donors and community members, by designating someone as your United Way’s storyteller to communicate your message, just as United Way of Greater Portland has done. Tell a story that communicates your United Way’s impact in the community and shares United Way of Greater Portland’s belief – that we are better together.