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Purposeful and authentic storytelling is vital in any organization, but it is increasingly necessary in philanthropic organizations seeking to engage external support in order to advance the organizational mission. Consensus building, a shared vision, and inclusion in the process are required by both internal and external constituents.

Unfortunately, stories are far too often more monologue than dialogue. Gaining ownership of and commitment to the organization’s vision becomes much more difficult when leaders develop a vision for the organization without first soliciting feedback from all key stakeholders. Key stakeholders who are critical to the success of the vision are then relegated to the role of spectator rather than an an engaged, respected, and active participant.

This practice creates both a disincentive for staff to offer feedback and a diminished desire to engage in the success of the organization with any degree of passion or enthusiasm. As a result, staff simply wait for further instructions before proceeding with any tactical assignment. The result for the organization is a less creative, less autonomous, and less committed staff.

The same concept holds true outside of the walls of the organization. Storytelling must be about meaningful, authentic, two-way conversations when engaging volunteers, advocates, and those willing to make philanthropic investment in the mission. We must spend more time being interested instead of simply trying to be interesting. Our stories must have a goal. They must be memorable and they must be actionable.

Often organizations create communication plans that lack integration or goals. The plans are measured by the message being delivered as opposed to the message received. Creating a culture of philanthropy requires that all within the organization speak the same language and tell the same story. It requires that all messages and all communi- cation channels become integrated to increase interaction, involve others more meaning- fully in the life of the organization, enhance a shared vision, and create viral advocates for the cause. In short, philanthropic organizations are those that move from talking at people to talking with people – and they do so with purpose and intent.