What do The Buddha, Confucius, Socrates and Jesus all have in common?
The answer might surprise you.
None of them ever wrote anything. The world has nearly 2.5 billion practicing Christians and half a billion Buddhists. Socrates and Confucius developed the pillars of Western and Eastern philosophy respectively.
How could we practice the teachings of these men—the most recent of whom lived over 2 millenia ago—if they never wrote a word?
Fortunately for us, their pupils were inspired enough to write down what they heard. And for centuries, we’ve built churches, laws, and governments on the belief systems anchored by these narratives. At the heart of any community of believers, you will find the stories that bind them.
It’s happening right now.
The story of a fruit vendor protesting his government launched the Arab Spring. Black Lives Matter was formed in response to the story of Trayvon Martin’s death. In both cases, powerful, emotional stories provided the motivation and the focus to start a movement.
So why is this important to you?
Because the same idea that starts a movement can help develop a passion in your institution. Better storytelling can help you attract new donors, engage existing donors, and raise funds more effectively.
No doubt you’re already using impact stories to attract new donors or report on large, endowed gifts. And I’m sure you’re no stranger to the challenges of collecting beneficiary stories, curating them, organizing them, and–most importantly and most challenging–aligning them with the specific, relevant interests of your donors.
It isn’t easy, is it?
But here’s where storytelling–and Mythos–comes in. A community of donors isn’t moved by facts and figures, needs and goals. They’re motivated to give by the beneficiary impact stories that connect them.
Because, above all, those stories create the belief that their gift will make a difference.
To learn more about the human history of writing and literature, be sure to read Martin Puchner’s excellent new book, The Written World. In it, he walks us through the development of written stories and explains how they formed our societies and beliefs. The book is part history, part storytelling and part travel literature—and it’s one of our favorite reads this year.