Lessons In Storytelling


So much of volunteer recruitment is about storytelling, I thought I’d draw attention to a VolunteerMatch partner we can all learn from.

OnceUponaSchool.org is a Web site dedicated to inspiring volunteers to get involved in new and innovative projects at public schools — especially literacy projects. The Web site was actually the result of a wish — that is, an open-ended prize granted by the TED prize, which annually is given by the TED Conference to social innovators.

Last year’s TED prize was giving to Dave Eggers, the writer who founded 826 Valencia, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing literacy and love of reading in at-risk communities.

Eggers, who is best known for his memoir Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, knows the power of storytelling, and his “wish” for the TED prize was to build a Web site were all kinds of volunteers could post stories and videos about transforming experiences they’ve had volunteering at public schools.

The result is a colorful, dynamic, and most of all deeply meaningful melange of narratives, experiences and inspiration.

For those of us who recruit volunteers, it’s worth a look and a deep ponder.

  • How can we add storytelling elements to our recruitment of volunteers?
  • How can we motivate and empower our best volunteers to share their stories with others?
  • What elements can be added to your VolunteerMatch profiles or your own Web sites to help tell the story of volunteering for your cause?

At its deepest level, the story of service is the story of change: change inside and out. Something to think about.

P.S. For an additional resource, check out master storytelling pro Andy Goodman, who counsels nonprofits on making story part of their public narrative. Andy will be a speaker at this year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco, June 22-24.