It’s 2020 and the world has more ways to communicate than any previous decade; additionally, it is extremely challenging to be heard in the 24/7 world of constant messaging. For this reason, local funders, Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, Wapello County Community Foundation, United Way of Wapello County, Iowa State University Extension: Wapello County, and TD & T CPAs and Advisors, sponsored a 4-hour workshop for 50 Wapello County Nonprofit Decision-Makers.

“Our local nonprofits have limited resources and their staff and budgets are stretched thin. They are trying to serve their constituents, raise funds, and build awareness of their organization. This was the impetus for the workshop.” said Himar Hernández, Legacy Foundation Board Member and Assistant Director of Community Development at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.   “We wanted to help them tell their story and get their message out in an efficient and effective way,”

The workshop specialist was Aimee Viniard-Weideman, Community and Leadership Development Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Ms. Viniard-Weideman was the Vice President for Marketing and Communications for Luther College prior to joining ISU Extension & Outreach. “We contracted with Ms. Viniard-Weideman because she has an extensive background in strategic communications and community relations; storytelling is one of the most powerful means to influence, teach, and inspire. Marketing through storytelling will give our nonprofits the means to engage their audiences in an emotional, memorable and meaningful way.” said Kelly Genners, Vice-President of Programs and Initiatives for the Legacy Foundation.

The workshop participants were guided through a deep dive of their organization. They created a core message, identified their audience(s), customized a message and developed a strategy to convey that message. It might sound simple but one must consider the reality of the current environment, including for-profit competitors with large marketing budgets and dedicated marketing staff and which of the countless social media platforms will best reach the intended audience. Ms. Viniard-Weideman encouraged the participants to focus on their websites as it is often a user’s first impression of an organization. She also explained how to use social media as a way to engage a key audience: focus on organizational goals and make content current, relevant, and fun.

According to Amy Nossaman, Grants Program Manager and workshop coordinator, the sponsors chose storytelling as their first workshop topic because “… our goal is to strengthen and support our local nonprofits. Being able to effectively tell their story helps build awareness of who they are and what they do, recruit and retain volunteers, and fundraise.” In addition to the workshop, each participant received a 1-hr follow up consultation with Ms. Viniard-Weideman. #storytelling for nonprofits