The two new moms, the animal rescuer and the former US Army Apache helicopter pilot gathered together that cold morning. Snow was pending — not a lot, but enough to make Southerners question their driving — and their sick kids and daily to-do lists were weighing in the back of their minds. Their lives were all different, but one thing united them: They knew their stories were important.
It was a community engagement event put on by The Trideum Foundation, based around the idea of telling your story on a shoestring budget, but it wasn’t your average, early-morning business breakfast. Three speakers — Rachael Jackson, Brianna Digiovine-Florence and Katie Woods — showed up to explain the power of storytelling in business.
And they took us to church.
It wasn’t all about Jesus or religion, that’s not what we mean, but there was a passion, a warmth, that isn’t found in a lot of lunch-and-learns or over-coffee presentations. Their words cut through all the bureaucratic nonsense and went straight to the heart of every person: You matter, and your story matters.
The Trideum Foundation is an equipping ministry, meaning they help people who help people. They bring resources, connection and storytelling efforts to nonprofits who are on the frontlines every day — the ones who feed the hungry, take care of the kids, and help those in need.
Rachael’s company, TRIBAL, helps coworkers connect with each other. She told the story of two coworkers who sat next to each other at work for years without knowing they both volunteered at retirement homes on the weekends. Once they realized their shared interest, they started volunteering together.
To get employees, volunteers or anyone involved in a cause, Rachael advises three actions.
First, you have to meet people where they are in life.
Rachael told another story about a man who spoke out about having a child with autism. His coworker also had a special needs child but never spoke about her home struggles at work. After realizing their shared situation, the two got together and started a support group for all the parents at their company.
Second, executives have to find a way to cut through the noise and let employees know they are cared about.
Not only that, but employees need to know that their families and health are cared about.
“Their stories can be all consuming, you need to find a way to connect them to hope, help and purpose,” Rachael said.
Finally, employers should find a way to celebrate every story.
You’ve Got A Story — Now What?
For nonprofits and smaller businesses, having a story isn’t enough — you have to get that story out into the world and get others to buy into your mission.
Brianna, a user experience designer for Trideum Corporation, spoke on branding, bringing people together to promote a common message. To get people thinking, Bree posed questions to help representatives realize what their story really was.
“Why do you do what you do beyond making money?” Bree asked. “How do you stand out in the minds of the consumer?”
But What About Money?
Having a story and brand is one thing, but having the funds to promote that story is another thing. Katie Woods with The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville recommends adding a blog to talk to employees — even a WordPress site can bring people together.
Katie also advises using email — either your personal email or a Mailchimp subscription — to promote corporate-giving spotlights.
As for social media, Katie said companies should advise employees to follow all corporate accounts. If your company doesn’t have a social media presence, there’s still time to get one going.
“It’s completely free to start a social media platform,” Katie said. “Where are your employees most likely to be spending their time on social media?”
Other free or low cost option include promoting the grants your company or nonprofit receives and creating a grant packet of promotional events and fun events.
One Huntsville nonprofit recently hosted a speed-dating type of event where different groups went around and gave their spiel to others who might be interested in helping.
No matter what, good stories have to start with the people, their lives and their passions.
“No good story ever started with the words, ‘the data shows,’ ” Rachael said.
The Community Journal is always looking for good-news or heartwarming stories to cover. If you want your group featured on the website, send us an email to [email protected].