Donald Miller tells two fictional narratives about getting up in the morning. One is unmemorable, and one is unforgettable! As a new StoryBrand guide years ago, I heard them, and I have never forgotten the second one. Listen to the two versions, and you will see.
I got up this morning. I stumbled into the kitchen, ready for my coffee. I reached forward toward the coffee pot, grabbed the pot, and poured my coffee.
That's it. Not much to it, right?
This is not a story that you will remember. This is not a story that you will tell to someone else. As you hear this story, you are waiting for something. You are expecting something, but it never happens. What is it?
THIS STORY NEVER INTRODUCES A PROBLEM!
All great stories start with a problem! When there is no problem, there is no story! All great and memorable stories begin with a problem. In the craft of storytelling, this is called an inciting incident.
Hollywood film producers know this and put an inciting incident at the beginning of their story, then fade back and tell the story that led up to it. If they didn't do that, no one would sit through their story! It would be bland and unmemorable.
Now listen to Donald Miller's second version of his morning:
I got up this morning. I stumbled into the kitchen, ready for my coffee. As I reached forward toward the pot to pour my coffee, I was horrified to see, there laying on the counter, a severed and bloody hand!
This story grabs your attention! You want to hear more, don't you?
THIS IS A STORY THAT PULLS YOU IN AND IS UNFORGETTABLE BECAUSE IT INTRODUCES A PROBLEM.
All great stories start with a problem!
Storytelling visionaries understand this and use it to their benefit, even in their one-liner.
The shortest story that you will ever tell is your one-liner. A one-liner is a few short sentences designed to pique another person's curiosity about what you do. The short few sentences don't tell everything you do. They reveal just enough to pique someone's curiosity.
Let me introduce a problem in this blog post:
Most nonprofit leaders' one-liners are unmemorable and boring as dishwater. But, using the power of story, we can make our one-liner unforgettable. We do that by introducing a problem as the first sentence of our one-liner!
Fundraisers with a great one-liner (often called an elevator speech) raise more awareness for their cause, facilitate more engagement in their mission and raise more money.
In his book, You Are The Brand, Mike Kim teaches that:
"...any good story involves a character who experiences an inciting incident that sets the rest of the tale in motion."
He goes on to say that
"We often get in our own way when writing stories because we get into 'writing mode,' and it's no surprise. For most of our lives, we were taught in school to write essays, not write stories. When we share stories in real life, we naturally start at the inciting incident."
Never is this more true than in one-liners.
Consider with me, when you meet someone, and they ask, what do you do? This is your opportunity to bring out your one-liner. It is at this point that most of us tell people what we do!
I save the rainforest
I feed the hungry
I house the homeless
I raise money
I run a nonprofit
While your answer may be true, it lacks the bloody hand element! Rare few people will remember it. People will not ask for you to elaborate. For fundraisers and nonprofit leaders who are righting wrongs and injustices, this is not good!
Let me repeat this: Fundraisers with a great one-liner (often called an elevator speech) raise more awareness for their cause, facilitate more engagement in their mission and raise more money.
As a fundraiser, in one sentence, you should be able to generate interest in your cause. A memorable one-liner does this. A memorable one-liner helps you connect before you convince. Telling people what you do doesn't connect. Introducing a problem with its solution is storytelling. Why does that matter? Because storytelling visionaries rule the world!
STORYTELLING. VISIONARIES. RULE. THE. WORLD.
Storytelling visionaries have memorable one-liners. They use their one-liner to connect before they convince. Great fundraisers understand the problem they solve and use it in their one-liner.
When someone asks me what I do, I have practiced my reply:
Nonprofit leaders struggle to find the strategies and confidence to see their mission fully funded. (PROBLEM)
I help them tell stories and say thank you all the way to the bank! (SOLUTION & RESULT)
Parts of a great one-liner:
Problem - the hook
The solution you bring
Result - the "happily ever after ending"
Some great one-liners from my fundraising accelerator students:
Communities hit by disaster struggle to get resources. We provide the transportation they desperately need. This helps them get back on their feet and rebuild.
- Shelli https://www.truckswithroomtospare.org Eighty percent of Haitian youth drop out after elementary school. Our organization offers programming that empowers them in life skills, leadership, and seeing them reach their full potential. This makes THEM the change Haiti needs!
- Jr & Jayme https://www.reachoutlafond.org. Many professionals struggle with success in life and relationships. I help them understand and overcome their limiting mindsets.
- Mitch https://restoredcoaching.org Stripped by communism of vibrant church life, older churches in Slovakia struggle to be relevant to their communities. We model intentional hospitality that explodes their growth.
- Daniel https://www.mtw.org/missionaries/details/dan-and-rebecca-gregoire People struggle to commit to their unique purpose in life. We provide strategies to equip, empower and encourage people to live a better life.
- Bruce & Elaine http://www.wholeworldministries.org Pastors and missionaries often struggle with burnout and transition. We provide coaching and training that sees them restored and fruitful.
- Sara https://www.thewaybetween.org The majority of urban men in their upper twenties grew up without an active father-figure and struggle with career, relationships and identity. We create community in their own space to give a new vision for their life and train them to achieve it.
- Michael https://breakfree2024.com Pastors and missionaries often struggle with burnout and transition. We provide coaching and training that sees them restored and fruitful.
- Sarah https://www.thewaybetween.org