Special Program for United Way

The special program organized by the International Storytelling Center for United Way agencies last week was a hit! A total of nine speakers delivered presentations on topics that ranged from using stories for bridging cultural gaps to demonstrating how to pose questions that elicit rich, valuable information. One of my presentations featured storytelling techniques practiced by companies featured in Around the Corporate Campfire: How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Results, and the other shared insights about the use of storytelling as a team building tool.

Highly respected fundraiser Jerry Panas, executive partner of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, kicked the day off with a beautifully crafted keynote address that essentially was (appropriately enough!) a series of well-told, instructive stories that illustrate expert fundraising techniques. One of his most powerful stories made the point that a simple, personal phone call to thank a donor–rather than the standard, impersonal mail-merged letter–can make a dramatic difference in an individual’s commitment, i.e., funding level.

Panas’ story underscored the fact that in today’s high-tech world, relationship-building is a more essential skill than ever; increasing the “high-touch” factor in your relationships will pay big dividends, both figuratively and literally. Another key point of discussion among the speakers during their “de-brief” session: People tend to think of communication as the practice of sending messages; very little attention is focused on the all-important skill of listening.

Who do you need to listen to more carefully?

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