Kelley KaufmanImagine seeing a young woman at a run/walk for melanoma research wearing a shirt with a photo of her brother who passed away at 28 years old from melanoma. Or, a man at a breast cancer race who is wearing a shirt in memory of his sister who lost her battle a few years prior, leaving behind two young sons. Or, a family at a suicide prevention walk proudly wearing team shirts displaying the face of their son/brother/nephew/grandson, hoping they can raise enough money and awareness to help the next person in need.

Would you feel more connected to the other supporters, the nonprofit, the cause if you were wearing a shirt sharing your story?

National storyteller J.G. Pinkerton once said, “Storytelling is a shared experience, and shared experiences are the basis of all relationships.”

What’s exceptional about the stories being told through custom nonprofit event merchandise is that they are personal stories. They are powerful. And, they are often shared with a healing pain and an enthusiastic passion for making a difference. These stories connect the storytellers to the nonprofit organization and inspire others around them to be involved, too.

This is powerful to a nonprofit, to be able to connect to your supporters in such a deep, personal way and build relationships based on mutual passion and mission.

Nonprofit organizations are constantly looking for ways to share their story. And, nonprofits are also always seeking to find new ways to raise money, raise awareness, and deepen engagement with supporters – help transform them from cause advocates to organizational advocates.

Connecting with your supporters and event participants in a way that allows/encourages/empowers them to tell their personal stories will help deepen the relationship between your organization and the donor, and will ideally begin the donor on his or her path towards becoming a strong, loyal brand and organizational advocate.

As we know, events are most successful if they engage people on all five levels of participation:

  1. Organization (ex. A passionate breast cancer advocate who is exclusively tied to your organization)
  2. Cause (ex. A passionate breast cancer advocate)
  3. Participants (ex. Someone whose friends are participating)
  4. Activity (ex. An avid cyclist)
  5. Third Party (ex. An employee whose company encouraged them to participate)

Oftentimes the distinction between one affinity level and another can be a personal connection. As J.G. Pinkerton reminds us, relationships are built on shared experiences. Empowering your supporters to share their stories may be the relationship building tool you need to encourage longer lasting relationships with your donors. After all, it is likely their stories that support your cause.

Kelley Kaufman is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for GoodThreads, a technology and product fulfillment company that services nonprofits. GoodThreads allows nonprofit event participants and teams to customize merchandise with their personal stories, while raising money and awareness for causes they care about. Kelley has spent the past ten years focused on the nonprofit industry, working in program development through local government, at agencies that worked with healthcare organizations, and in-house for large national and international organizations. Kelley’s passion for helping to make a difference is now being concentrated on helping GoodThreads’ nonprofit partners create successful campaigns and deepen relationships with supporters.

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