What’s Narrative Philanthropy?

“Norma Cameron has a gift.  A storytelling, tale-spinning gift.    She’ll have you leaning forward in your seat as she tells you about visiting a former English professor that resulted in an eight million dollar gift.  Yes. Eight million. This lady knows how to tell a good story.”      Community Foundations of Canada International Conference Participant

I combined my love of storytelling with my skills and experience as a fundraiser, public relations practitioner, writer and professional storyteller to create a whole new way of looking at non-profit communications.  In 2006, I started my own business, The Narrative Company  to help organizations understand and adopt my Narrative Philanthropy approach.

I have over 25 years’ experience in fundraising (corporate, major gift, planned giving & direct marketing), in research, interviewing and writing articles, stories and reports,  organizational development, performance storytelling, keynote presentations, facilitation, public speaking and training.

When I first came across the term, Narrative Philanthropy, in a April 2009 Photo Shoot 018Planned Giving Today article written by Jim Grote. I knew immediately that this is what I had been doing all along.  Having grown up in a family of storytellers in Scotland, story had always been part of my life and my life’s work.”

 I developed The Narrative Approach  to help teach individuals and organizations how to tap into the ‘power of story’ to create communication strategies designed to build long-term, successful relationships with their audience(s) – with the underlying purpose of generating passion and motivating action.  It incorporates seven key story categories that each organization needs to develop with, and make available to, their staff, volunteers and supporters.  And four interlocking stories focused on yourself, your organization, your community…and each donor, to develop the magical formula required to create the all-important, shared story.

“In today’s world, there is no lack of ways to communicate with millions of people simply by pressing ‘send’.  But, there is a lack of those quiet, meaningful conversations where people are truly engaged and listening to one another.  Developing  skills to create such memorable conversations  will help everyone build authentic, long-term relationships.”        Norma Cameron, CFRE 

This approach incorporates the exploration, development and application of an overarching narrative (an organization’s ‘brand story’ or ‘narrative brief’) and a collection of key stories to help an organization achieve its mission.  And adopting this approach also means that everyone (staff and volunteers) at the organization would participate in a process to better understand their own story (what motivates them), then overlay this against the organization’s story to find the ‘match’.  And finally, equip the frontline staff with the skills and knowledge to gather, shape and share stories of  the organization, its donors, volunteers and beneficiaries  – entirely focused on helping fulfill the organization’s mission.

 I have also developed a series of workshops for organizations to teach them how to create an overall communications framework to support fundraising, recruitment, communications and marketing activities.

Norma  lives in a little corner of paradise, called Deep Cove, North Saanich on Vancouver Island.

Contact: Phone 250.655.3352    Email: thenarrativecompany@telus.net

2 Responses to What’s Narrative Philanthropy?

  1. Janet L says:

    Norma,
    I have come backwards into your site in the most amazing way!! I was searching for an image of a Dr Barnado’s Cottage and one you had included in a blog came up. So first may I use it with a credit to you please?
    You may wonder why I wanted the image … well it’s because I am researching ways to encourage participation from the Canadian public in a project to remember all those listed as members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. It’s a long story and I won’t bore you with details for now.
    However my second, third and hopefully fourth careers have been in the non profit sector although after a short stint I’ve stayed away from fundraising.Your approach might make me at least study the possibilities of embracing fundraising/philanthropy more fully.
    Sincerely
    Janet L

    • Hi Janet,
      So glad to hear I’ve inspired you to consider wading into the fundraising world. I do believe, that at its heart, it’s a profession that, at it’s heart, requires excellent communication skills coupled with a deep care for others. And, of course, it’s all about stories…those of the impact and outcome of the charitable work, those of the people who have chosen to support a cause and, those who have chosen to work in a field where they can make a difference in the lives of others. As for the image, it’s not mine so I cannot provide you with the authority to use it. I found it years ago and simply had it in my image library. So, if you wish to use it, I’m not even sure who you would have to contact to ask permission. Thank you for taking the time to write this note. I wish you every success with your project, it sounds very intriguing – and when you’re open to sharing it, I’d love to read it. Cheers, Norma

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