January 8, 2024 Ryan Stillwater

Ryan Stillwater

A few years ago, I was the new development director in a new town for a regional nonprofit organization, attempting to wrap my mind around a new area of human services: domestic violence.

We were preparing for our annual banquet, where I would be presenting an overview of our mission. I chose to share a story about someone close to me who was a survivor of domestic violence.

Our executive director was a little unsure about sharing a story—after all, shouldn’t people know just how prevalent domestic violence is in our community? Won’t they be shocked and forever impacted by the stats she would be presenting? The possibility of the collective eyes of the room glazing over was unlikely.

At the end of the event, we were sitting together after all the attendees departed.

“It really is about the stories,” she confessed.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around millions of people in need, so we don’t. This is what the research in “Psychic Numbing” has shown: the more people in need, the less we care.

With many organizations experiencing a normalization to pre-pandemic levels of giving, it’s more important to get back to the basics—not of fundraising, per se, but of human nature.

  • We’re busy, but also compassionate.
  • We’re aware our checking account balance is getting pretty low, but we know that every little bit really does make a difference.
  • We’ve got enough on our plate, and yet somehow, doing something selfless for someone else seems to make the plate bigger.

Many of you reading this have worked in your industry for a long time, but I bet you remember someone’s story from 10 years ago, not the annual report. I bet you remember someone’s face, their tears soaking your shirt.

Share those stories. Share how it made you feel.

And those reading your stories will respond. It’s human nature.

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