Maximizing Success Through Storytelling with Deryle DanielsJul 08, 2022
Join my upcoming conversation with storyteller, Deryle Daniels, Jr. who is also the principal consultant at Dollars & Stories, and Director of Narrative Change at Forward Cities one of the organizations at Provident1898.
Q. Your stories Storytelling for impact mostly in the black and brown community. How did you get there?
I’m from Durham, NC. It’s home for me and I went to school at Chapel Hill. I got into fundraising and storytelling when I went to UNCG as an undergraduate. I went there for a marketing degree, but left with a degree in African American studies. I am really about investing back into our community.
My start in development fundraising storytelling happened when my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, wanted to go to a conference in Vegas. We couldn’t afford for everyone to go because we were a big chapter. I decided to go to the student government to ask for 5k to send five guys and they gave it to us! I got even further involved when one of my fraternity brothers started a company after undergrad and told me that he needed a Director of Development, which essentially is getting people to give money. I had no formal training, but I knew how to make people passionate about the mission, so I did that during my time in Charlotte.
I then came back to Durham and applied to a job at NCCU School of Law as the Director of Annual Giving. It was there that I got my first real training in how to fundraise and storytell about the students and workers who need resources, access to training, etc. From there I had quite a few development jobs and I’ve enjoyed it, but I realized that my strength is in telling stories. That goes from fundraising to marketing to my podcast “Narratives Over Wine & Whiskey”. Narrative change and development kill stereotypes. Stereotypes are when you don’t know someone’s story and you have to make judgments based on what the media tells you that person’s story is.
Q. What is it about bringing these stories together that stokes your fire? What is your “Why”?
I think it’s showing people that they have opportunities outside of the traditional. You can’t be a creative person, want to go into marketing and not be a salesman or someone who is manipulating things to make people feel a certain way.
I want to tell authentic stories and stories of persistence. Everything is not going to be perfect, which is one of the major things that is wrong with America right now. We’ve been fed the narrative of success equaling a white picket fence and the Disney fairytale. The reality is, however, that success is not a linear trajectory. Telling authentic stories that highlight ‘Even if you slip up or mess up, you can still get back up’, is very important.
Q. Desiree is doing some dope work with the “I Can You Can Vegan”, can you give us your affiliation to her?
That is my wonderful wife. When we talk about storytelling, I am the wordsmith, but she is creating a brand geared toward Black people who want to explore the predominantly plant-based lifestyle. You can find more info on her work at https://www.icanyoucanvegan.com/ or @icanyoucanvegan on Instagram where she hashtags me as #pickyasshusband because I eat meat because I’m not vegan, but I have fallen in love with some of her plant-based meals.
As people of color who often are overlooked when it comes to health, the way we interact with food is very important. Health is important and we have sought and found some answers to how we can have fun creating healthy options for people. I love knowing that I have a lot more options than just a boring salad.
Q. Getting into some of the keys for a nonprofit, how do you move from simply being a bighearted organization to telling the story and moving it forward?
Nonprofits are filling the gap in economic disparity, mental and physical health issues, etc. They’re doing great work, but it’s not sustainable if they’re unable to pay the people who are doing the heavy lifting. There are plenty of people who don’t want to take a corporate job, but they take it because the money is there. There are a lot of people who want to leave an impact, but haven’t figured out how to do that and still pay their bills. People have to be able to make a living and so nonprofits need to be able to fundraise.
Q. How do we bridge the gap between resources and organizations that want to move their work forward?
It’s all about storytelling. It’s all about how you can tell a story that people can relate to and shows that they, the donor, can have an impact in the story they’re listening to in real time. These stories show them exactly how their money is impacting the lives of those that need it.
I worked with this amazing nonprofit in Carrboro, NC called TABLE. They are providing students with the food they need on weekends and evenings because so many children are food insecure. They are doing such great work, but if you don’t know about them and the work they’re doing, you won’t know that your $50 provides children with food they need to eat during the week. With children-focused organizations, we use animation because we don’t want their faces out there. The work I do helps these organizations tell their stories without being exploitative. It helps to ensure the success of not the organization, but the people that they serve.
For anyone who is going into marketing, I highly recommend the book, Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. If you understand the basic premise of Star Wars, you know the main players Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Luke Skywalker. Yoda and Obi Wan weren't the heroes of the story, but they helped him get where he needed to be. Donors want to play a role in the hero’s story. The hero is the under-serviced child or the cancer survivor. It is the nonprofit organization’s job to use their story to help donors see where they fit in the picture of getting the hero where they need to be.
Q. With this brand of storytelling for fundraising, there’s an invitation to partnership. How do you nurture the relationship with the person who has accepted the invite to become a donor?
As a professionally trained fundraiser, I’ve seen that a lot of times we fail to properly steward after we get those dollars. It’s not just about the tax receipt. It’s about checking in and continuing to share those stories and the profile of the person being helped.
You also have to build a culture of giving for your organization. A lot of organizations think that a grant can sustain them, and grants are great! But you need cheerleaders. They are the word of mouth advertisers that bring in more people.
Q. There’s often this under sharing of one's work in the nonprofit space because it may come across as bragging. How do you storytell in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s putting the spotlight on you, but you need some of the spotlight on you so people know what you’re doing?
It’s not about bragging, it’s about the fact that you’re doing great work. That’s narrative change and paradigm shifting. You have to keep in mind that you’re not bragging for a self-serving purpose, but for the service of someone else. Think of it this way, if you don’t raise more money, there will be people you can’t help. If you’re in the nature space, there are going to be trees and other plants that you can’t save. You will have failed to leave the impact that you desire to leave on this planet.
Q. What are some steps someone could take to begin crafting their story and sharing their story a little more authentically and with more clarity?
Get consistent on social media. I know that a lot of nonprofits are under-resourced, but make the time to spend an hour every week on a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer and schedule out your tweets and Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but start getting something out there. Craft a quality message and get it out there! People can’t share what they don’t see.
Use testimonials. They come from the people you’re actually helping and help boost your credibility.
Q. What do you think about some of the different channels people can use to share their stories on? Where do they start?
Figure out your target demographic. Who is going to care about this and have resources to donate? This comes with some market research that I help people figure out. Facebook and LinkedIn are great resources. Every generation has a Facebook account. LinkedIn hosts a lot of young to senior level professionals. When you’re thinking about the dollars that can come in, you’re thinking about people who have disposable income and time to give. These two places are great for quick turnaround. TikTok is the long run.
Think about your time, what you know, and leverage that to grow and expand to an intern, paid assistant, etc. In order to get that, you have to learn to build sustainably.
Q. What are your thoughts on applying business principles to nonprofit sustainability?
Using Forward Cities as an example, we have looked at a new business model called EOS, which is a business centric operational model that we are now implementing into the way we do our work. It allows us to structure in a sustainable way that helps us reach our goals. A lot of nonprofits are concerned with the work they’re doing that they forget the business side of things and sometimes lose their business. The true goal is to raise the amount of money that you need in order to work yourself out of this job, which can only happen once the problem has been eradicated.
Q. How do you work out understanding the relationship between the organization, the donor, and the client that is being served by the organization with the donor’s money?
At this point, you have two target markets.
The market you want to be served. This is a totally different message from what you’ll be saying to the market of people you need to financially donate to them. The message you're crafting here is that the organization doesn’t take anything from the donor other than the feeling that you’ve served your community well.
Prospect research. You have people on a board or people that you’re considering and you have to know where their money usually goes and what their capacity for giving looks like. Prospect research when you’re looking at individual donors is huge and it enables you to better craft the story to that person and show them how X intersects with Y.
These things take time, being intentional, and building a relationship to get to know the person.
Q. Can you reverse engineer your marketing strategies with your existing donors?
One thing I like to say is that we’re building a culture of philanthropy. Your culture is not only the work that you do but it’s also building that support network. Clemson University got their students started early with the Tiger Club. Starting their freshmen year, if students give $5 a year, they get the first tickets to a basketball game, etc. Sophomore year, you’re giving $10 and by senior year you’re giving $20 and the incentive is that during homecoming there is a special reception held for them.
They’re building a culture of giving for them at the door that instills the mindset of, “Earn more, Give more”. To be a successful storyteller and marketer, you ultimately have to look at how to build, sustain and create a donor who is willing and able to tell my story for me.
Q. How do you equip someone to tell your story?
When you’re reaching back out to people after they’ve sent a gift or donation, make sure that you’re giving them a few talking points. You want to bolden them in sharing the message. It’s sharing how their $10 helps a specific amount of people. Toss in your mission and your social media handle.
An example would be how I plugged my wife and her work with I Can You Can Vegan. I know her and her mission well. I know how it’s impacted me to have better food options and I threw out her social media handles. If you can encourage someone else to give up one night of eating out to give back to someone else, why not try it?
Q. Orgs that do a great job of connecting people to the story make people feel like they’re a part of the journey. What do you think about that?
Like I said before, it’s about authenticity and what’s a good fit. For me, my target market is non profits who have a positive impact on Black and Brown communities. Looking at Trees Durham, they’re putting more trees in communities that are lacking. They’re leaving a positive impact on the Black and Brown communities. It’s not about excluding, but about being more and more inclusive and making sure there’s more equity. I’m searching for alignment with my principles.
Q. Practically, what is one next step our audience can take to get their stories out more authentically and in front of the right people?
Equip your board. Make sure that your board knows how to tell your story. There are so many nonprofits that don’t ask for money from their board, they don’t have them make introductions for them, and they don’t empower their board to do those things. Our board of directors is there to support you with your decision making, etc. They’re low hanging fruit that a lot of nonprofits are neglecting. Everyone on the board may not have a million to give, but they may know someone who can help you get there.
Q. Some board members can be poorly led or managed, which might explain why they are underutilized. What are your thoughts?
I was brought onto the boards that I work on because 1. I’m passionate and 2. They know that my position as a fundraising specialist is going to help them move further. Selecting board members who can help move your mission forward is the key. You have to have a diverse board where you know each of their strengths and you play to them.
Q. How do we connect with you?
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