Collect compelling stories that will inspire your donors.
When you want to show donors the great work their gifts are making possible, nothing beats the real story of someone being helped. And one of the best ways to collect the most compelling and moving stories is to listen — in person — to those whose lives have been changed by your donors’ generosity.
This is the inherent value of a resource gathering trip. And to build upon that value, and to make taking the trip as worthwhile as possible, a little planning is in order.
First, consider what kinds of stories you’re looking to get out of the trip. If your organization helps people in many different ways, you may want to capture as many stories as possible that reflect those differences. This will give you breadth when deciding which stories to tell. But you may also want to collect several similar stories — which will give you depth — offering several options for further usage down the road.
Next, plan your itinerary. Get any relevant colleagues on the same page who could help you pre-arrange the people you’ll need to speak with and the places you’ll need to go.
This is also the time to consider:
- Logistical factors: time constraints, traffic and other travel issues, and whatever other variables will conceivably affect your trip.
- The best use of your time. A facility tour might be interesting, but would your time be better spent speaking to the people your donors are helping?
- Supplementary needs that may not be immediately obvious. Will you require translation services, for example?
Here are some additional tips for making the best use of your time during the resource gathering trip:
- Limit interview length to a set amount of time … and stick to it. You could have someone from your team provide you with a “five-minute warning” to let you know the interview is winding down. This allows you to focus on the person you’re speaking with and not worry about time.
- When you are conducting more than one interview, have your team take care of the other elements ahead of time: signing the release form, taking the photographs, etc.
Pro tip: Take a photograph of your interviewee holding their signed release for easier identification later.
Before embarking on your trip, do a check of your equipment and personnel:
- Recording device
- Release forms — for obtaining permission to use the words and/or images of the people whose stories you want to tell
- Business cards
- Your itinerary, background information, and other necessary information
- Photographer — or your own camera
- Phone numbers and email addresses for everyone involved
Now you are ready for the best part: speaking to real people and collecting real stories. Here are some keys to a good interview:
*Remember part of your job is reporting. Find out the 4 W’s and an H: who, what, when, where, and how. This gives you the framework of what led the person to need the help they received and walk you through how they received that help. It will also help clarify the timeline of the story, which is important, as people will often tell their story in a non-linear way.
*Ask how they felt and how they feel. If the person you’re speaking with was hungry, or scared, find out how that felt to them. Likewise, how they felt when your organization helped them. Ask how they feel about the organization and the help they received. Ask what they would say to the donors who support the organization.
*That said, listen, don’t ask, when the person you are interviewing takes the ball and runs with it. Often, story nuggets will emerge that can provide you with unexpected emotional touch points in the story you will be crafting.
*Finally, if possible, obtain a phone number for follow-up. When you have time to go over the interview in detail, you may find you have additional questions.
A successful resource trip can yield a great deal of excellent material to share with your donor. It can take a lot of work — but like anything else, the more planning you can do ahead of time, the more likely your trip will go well, and the more powerful, compelling stories you’ll have to share with your donors.
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