3rd – 5th July 2017
The Barbican

Storytelling and Honouring Vulnerability

: Jen Love

What do you think is the most important skill as a storyteller? Fundraising Convention speaker Jen Love, of Agents of Good, has an answer...

What would you think if I told you that I believe the most important skill of a storyteller is the ability to honour vulnerability? 

I’ve had the amazing experience of interviewing hundreds of people for a variety of causes over the years and I’m constantly amazed by the courage it takes to come forward and tell a story about being helped by a charity. For many people, asking for help in our own lives, from people we love and who love us, is hard enough. 

So when I interview program beneficiaries, I honour that courage, I speak to it directly. I thank them for coming forward and telling their story, and I tell them that my hope is to express their story in a way that it will inspire donors to give so that the charity we love can help more people. 

And I hadn’t really made the right connection between vulnerability and courage until the brilliant Brené Brown gave me the words for what I already knew in my heart: Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness. 

What a beautiful privilege it is for us to help our program beneficiaries see their vulnerability as courage. 

Here’s where I believe that we, as fundraising storytellers, need to take a page from the book of our program beneficiaries. I enter every single interview with an open heart and a curious mind. But it is the open-hearted part that I want to focus on. 

In order to be really and truly present when I interview people, I have to be open and vulnerable too. I have to be comfortable asking challenging questions. I have to be comfortable welling up with tears along with the person I’m talking to. I have to be comfortable saying, “I’m so sorry, that must have been really hard for you.” And I have to mean it. 

In Brené’s spectacular Ted Talk, she speaks about truly embracing vulnerability. She talks about how what makes us vulnerable makes us beautiful. She talks about the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something with no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. 

As storytellers, we must be willing to be vulnerable. And best of all, like emotional intelligence, this is something we can learn. Something we can all learn. Something we can choose. 

Finally, let’s connect these ideas back to our donors. And no human on earth could say this better than one of my heroes, the one and only Ken Burnett: "When a story resonates closely with your audience’s values and aspirations, amazing things become possible. Transformational stories told well have the knack of fixing themselves fast inside the brains of a receptive audience, settling there to liberate feelings, activate emotions, release passions and shape desires that all but compel our audience to act."

I would love to hear what you think. Please feel free to comment, drop me a line, tweet me or let’s meet for a cup of tea or a pint (that’s what to say, right?) at #IoFFC in London!

Take a look at Jen's Convention session: Storytelling playshop: improve your storytelling skills

Jen Love, Partner, Agents of Good

Agent Jen Love is a storyteller and not in a poetic sense. In a fumbling, arm-waving, half-sentence-speaking, let's-get-to-the-heart-and-the-feelings sense. Write drunk, edit sober...even if you're only drunk on emotions. Agents of Good is a collective of donor champions.


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