I Paid Over $15K To Learn Margin!

Updated: Jul 4

After I left the pastorate and entered the marketplace, I knew I needed a great website. A good friend turned me on to Donald Miller. I found his podcast, started from day one and took notes. The cost: My time.

In those days Miller and his always laughing associate JJ Peterson would critique someone's website on the show. I learned a lot but still felt unsure about how to build my own website. So, when he published his book Building A Storybrand I quickly bought it. The cost: $17.99

I had listened to dozens of Building A Storybrand podcasts AND took fastidious notes, AND studied the book, but I still lacked the confidence to build my own website. So...when Donald Miller offered an online experience to learn the Storybrand framework for $299, I jumped at the chance!

Call me a slow learner but even then, I still lacked the confidence that I needed to make a great website! So, when Miller offered the opportunity to come to Nashville for two days and be personally guided by he and his team for $2,000 I jumped at the chance!

THEN... After signing up for the in-person experience, I learned that for another $13,000 I could spend the week with Donald Miller, JJ Peterson, Koula Callahan and the Storybrand team learning the Storybrand framework.

You know what happened don't you? I whipped out my credit card, and jumped at the chance!!!

That was the beginning of a great relationship with Donald Miller and his team as a Storybrand Certified Guide.

Can I tell you one of the main things I learned that nonprofit leaders and missionaries need to hear?

Great promotional collateral intentionally includes a lot of margin, saying more with less.

...saying more with less.

There is a revolution going on now in marketing and promotion and nonprofit leaders and missionaries should scramble to understand it.

Big business has learned that consumers are attracted to "less is more." The early adopters who have caught on are selling more and edging out their competition.


I first learned about margin from my sign painter, dad. "People don't read the copy on a sign," he would say. "They read the space around it." He was always teaching me the power of less copy on a sign to enhance its readability.

I have realized that most business, nonprofit and missionary marketing is done by graphics and I.T. folks who know nothing about the power of margin. It is always crammed with too much information.

Most "old-school" graphics and I.T. folks know little about margin. And, sadly, too many of us nonprofit leaders and missionaries take our cue from them.

Most businesses do their marketing the same way; it's just too much. "Please," the consumer and your donors are saying, "less is more."

OMG, talk about NO margin!


Myers Pet Care BEFORE: Graphics designers LOVED making this, very artsy!

I spent a year with Storybrand learning from Miller and his team as a Certified Guide. Please, study a website with me. Look at the before and after for Meyers Pet Care:



Notice Meyers Pet Care AFTER Donald Miller's Storybrand team gives it a one-liner and LOTS OF MARGIN.

What difference does margin make?


Message to missionaries and nonprofit leaders, margin is attractive. Less is more and donors LOVE it.

Andy Stanley leads a class called "Take It To The Limit," where he helps people understand the power of margin in their lives. One of his definitions of margin is "the space between our current performance and our limits." Margin is pacing yourself on a long relay run, leaving room for a burst of speed at the end. The athletes who win have mastered this. And we love them for it.

Margin is showing up somewhere a couple of minutes early.

Having a friend who lives with that kind of margin and gets there on time to save you a seat can be priceless!

Our highways have margin, spaces wider than what our car needs. Which is better, five inches or three feet? In the age of texting-while-driving, we are so thankful for more than inches.

Margin is the difference in leg-room in a first-class airplane seat or a coach seat. Yeah, are we ever attracted to that!

Margin is having some money left over that you didn't spend at the end of the month. We have a word for the people who maximize that value. We call them "wealthy."

Watching people live margin-less lives makes for excellent reality t.v. But, in real life, no margin is a recipe for disaster. It is quite unattractive and is a horrible promotional strategy.

Think about it. We are so attracted to people who have maximized the power of margin in their lives.

  • They are the thought leaders we listen to

  • They are the wealthy we admire

  • They are the older folks who are finishing well

Margin can make your promotional literature so much more attractive.

  • In your one pager

  • In your Case For Support

  • In your newsletters

  • In your website

My friend Caleb Jordan just got a new website. Notice all the margin. Notice how he says more with less. He and I struggled for weeks to describe what he brings to the table in one SHORT phrase. (thanks lindseyoaks.com for the site).

Andy Stanley says that life happens in the margins.

I say, missionaries and nonprofit leaders raise more money with margin in their promotional collateral.

Selah, pause and think about margin.

Some practical ways I have learned to add margin:

  • When you write/publish, make your paragraphs no more than four lines (Notice that most of the paragraphs in this post are four lines or less). When I write a paragraph and it is more than four lines, I try to break it up.

  • Instead of four sentences, consider using four bullet points (Look where I used them in this post). The good thing about bullet points, you don't have to use complete sentences.

  • Start with a Canva template and force your message into it! Nonprofits can get a free Canva account HERE.

  • Use more strategically placed pictures. Remember, a picture is worth what? TRUST THAT MAXIM!

What about you? How have you learned to add margin to your promotional collateral? Email me, david@wsdevelop and share your tips.

Want a free Canva newsletter template?

If it helps, I will give you the template to a great newsletter I created for LAMP, in Valdosta, Georgia. CLICK HERE Just change out the pictures for yours, write your stories, print and get the confidence and money you need!!


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©2021 WorldStage Development - David Oaks

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