Elements of A Strong Story: Let’s Start with Innovative Funding Opportunities

Presently, I’m attending the 2019 Community Prosperity Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m learning about the new funding opportunities available in the 2018 Farm Bill. The summit addressed the following key areas; 1. E-Connectivity for Rural America, 2. Improving Quality of Life, 3.  Supporting A Rural Workforce, 4. Harnessing Technological Innovation and 5. Economic Development. The highlight of the two- day hands on training program was participants discussing their success stories, and how a strong story can propel the program by attracting additional funders.

So, just brainstorming if the elements of a strong story is important how can we channel this to an innovative funding opportunity? Everyone will not be able to attend and pitch their story at every conference across the world. As stories are told over and over again by others, they begin to become diluted and misleading. An old proverb comes to mind, “if you don’t tell your story someone else will tell it on your behalf, and usually they tell it how they see it.” Usually, we give interested parties our Why? one person at time. It appears we will still miss opportunities to pitch our stories and secure the funds.

My suggestion is to find practical needs to promote your impact, purpose and mission. For instance, a great way to promote your program and highlight your impact is an educational calendar. Over the last three years, AAMU Small Farms Research Center has developed a yearly 13-month calendar to focus on a couple of issues.  Our main focus to inform people who, what, where, and why about the University and unit. We connect with the community by highlighting a farmer and farm activities we host for each month. Authentic pictures of our clients. We are the photographers and we tell how story. Participants love to see themselves on the cover, while others get a chance to learn more about us. Our calendars have traveled a crossed the world because farmer believe they are “Rock Stars,” and love to see themselves  associated with something bigger than themselves. All jokes aside the calendar tells a consistent story about who we are, promoting our programs and services, and the clients we assist.   Finally, the last component we have  included is a financial literary-record keeping component we adopted by Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The physical budget on the calendars allows participants to see their actually spending habits. Our hope is they will make a change to their finances. This physically budget helps people become self-sufficient and achieve financial stability. Calendar users are able to manage a budget, re-evaluate how to save money, distinguish the difference between wants and needs, and maybe consider taking a part-time job.

Therefore, if you’re looking for innovative way to showcase your organization to educate the public on who you are- the elements of story telling  may begin and end with calendar.

Do you have some innovative ways to educate the possible inventors and the general public about your organization, besides social media? Please feel free to share your ideas.