What Fundraisers Can Learn From Phyllis Diller & John Maxwell: FILE EVERYDAY!

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

I will never forget something that an up-and-coming pastor taught me years ago. It has been a MAJOR boon to me as a storyteller today.

That pastor was John Maxwell. He had begun to step beyond his pastoral role and do leadership training for other pastors like me in Atlanta.

The habit he taught me was something he had done for many years. His habit? FILE EVERY DAY. Every day, John filed material away that he might use as a communicator and content creator. He did this, having been challenged by one of his mentors, Zig Ziglar (See You At The Top).

I had read Zig's challenge but hadn't put it into practice. His thought was that an idea unrecorded was an idea often lost.

Gold Nugget: Left unrecorded, our best and most inspired ideas are often lost.

Every day of his life, John committed to taking content that he was consuming and file it away for possible use in his messages and books.

"Filing" was a new idea I had never heard of. I remember how he described reading books, highlighting thoughts and stories, tearing out the page, and giving it to his assistant to file away.

Every day of his life, John Maxwell committed to file something from whatever he was consuming. He did this religiously!

He ripped out magazine articles and filed them.

He ripped pages out of books and filed them.

He NEVER attended a seminar or conference that he didn't take meticulous notes and file them.

He watched movies with a pen and paper, recording stories that moved him, and he filed them.

He listened to great speeches, recorded thoughts, and phrases that moved him and filed them.

John Maxwell had gone from seeing himself as a communicator to seeing himself as a content producer. Can you see yourself doing this?

Selah. Pause and think about that. What might seeing yourself as a content producer change about your life?

Committed to becoming a better communicator, that day, I too started to collect and file thoughts, stories, insights, and anecdotes. I have done it EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE SINCE.

Filing every day enabled me to become a better communicator and storyteller. I have used these stories to raise millions of dollars.

Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggested that wrapping the "facts" about your nonprofit with stories makes your message twenty-two times more memorable.

Communication expert Jim Lukaszewski says, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a good story is worth 10,000 pictures."

Leaders of successful political campaigns understand the power of stories.

Conference keynote speakers understand the power of stories.

Wall Street titans understand the power of stories.

Best-selling authors understand the power of stories.

Great marketers leverage the power of stories.

Filing stories, anecdotes, and insights play a crucial role in better storytelling. Telling better stories is a big step toward raising more money (read more here). Having a trove of stories, insights, tales, and truths filed around a particular topic IS GOLD!

Gold Nugget: Filing stories, anecdotes, tales, and ideas away before you need them provides you with ingredients for great storytelling.

In his book Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon says, "Your job is to collect good ideas. The more great ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by."

Ralph Waldo Emerson kept his ideas in notebooks that he called his "savings banks." Austin Kleon tells how "the notebooks were in part his storehouse of original writing...designed to store and give him access to the accumulating fruits of his reading on every topic that interested him throughout his life."

Phyllis Diller had a "gag file," a steel cabinet with forty-eight file drawers containing more than 50,000 3X5 inch index cards, each with a gag or joke that she used for her stand-up comedy. That file is currently housed at the Smithsonian. Bob Hope's swipe file is housed in the Library of Congress.

When George Carlin was eighteen, he had an employer tell him to write down "every idea I get even if I can't use it at the time, and then file it away and have a system for filing it away—because a good idea is of no use to you unless you can find it." (Kleon)

Martin Luther King electrified the world with his speech, "I Have A Dream." It is a merging together of thoughts and ideas now traced to at least ten other texts. Can you guess how that happened? We both know now, don't we? (Click to read more: Similarities and Allusions).

Following John Maxwell's challenge and Phyllis Diller's example, I began to file material in folders stored in metal filing cabinets. After a few years, the electronic world exploded with programs for electronic filing. That was a happy day.



P.S. Don't miss my FREE Webinar, Tuesday, July 27th, 11 a.m., "Christmas Fundraising Starts In July." CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

24 views0 comments