Communications Specialist Heather Young gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the process of writing advancement feature stories.
The news feed for University Advancement and Marketing can sometimes be pretty routine, with cut-and-dry press releases listing the facts and figures of who donated what amount. . .
However, behind each of these donations there are human beings with interesting stories and passions motivating their generous gifts to the University. This is where storytelling can be a powerful tool, not just to inform, educate, and entertain, but it can also inspire, influence and drive action.
Storytelling: from war-torn Afghanistan to the small-town Big Rapids
The art of storytelling is something that I advocated and honed while working at NATO headquarters. As a recent graduate of broadcast and print journalism, I started working at the political, military organization as an intern. At the time, NATO struggled to explain its role in Afghanistan in a positive light to national constituents. Talking heads were not getting the job done, and so the NATO Channel was born. The concept was to show, not tell, what NATO was doing and why. Six video journalists in Afghanistan put together video stories – from an Afghan doctor who was building medical devices out of scrap metal, to an Afghan women who created a business to employ widows, to stories of soldiers on the frontlines – stories about people. While I can’t give an accurate measure of perception, we did see a significant increase in website views and journalists downloading our video footage. Today it has evolved into an award-winning campaign for the organization, called Return to Hope.
I believe storytelling is one of the best tools an organization can use to advance themselves. Stories can capture our imaginations, arouse our passions and influence our actions in a way that a list of facts can’t do. Now that I am back in the United States and working for Ferris, I hope to share the Ferris story and make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
We are all fundraisers
I actually work in the Communications side of our division, so fundraising really isn’t in my job description. But nonetheless, perhaps I am part of the process, because in communications we create content that can influence perceptions, which in turn can influence decision-making, i.e., the decision to donate or not, or the decision to go to Ferris or to another school.
That’s why advancement stories can be a great opportunity for storytelling and reputation building. So far, I’ve written four web articles, which has given me the opportunity to listen to donors, learn about their passion for Ferris and share their stories. Being new to Big Rapids, it’s been a fantastic way to meet community leaders and learn more about Ferris.
You can find some of the stories I’ve written on The Ferris Foundation website: Alten, Carter, Trimarco and Proctor. Check out the stories, learn about our donors and maybe you’ll decide to donate yourself. If so, I look forward to telling YOUR story soon.