Harvard Business Review calls it a strategic tool with “irresistible power”. To Entrepreneur magazine it’s the “major business lesson of 2014”. Companies and nonprofits like American Express, Random House and PBS are paying up to $3,500 for a workshops on it.

What is this exciting phenomenon that’s become a new buzzword? It’s the ancient art of storytelling — that fundamental human activity which has been around since the advent of fire.

The reason for the storytelling renaissance — both in business and in fundraising — is that in today’s media-cluttered, demographically-changing markets it’s no longer enough to offer up the same old pap, or worse, the same old pap laced with statistics about your company, nonprofit or cause.

You need to be compelling and unforgettable and smart. Some even use the term ‘magnetic’. In short, you need to have a good story.

storyEnter the newest must-read book from Ken Burnett, master fundraiser, author of the classic Relationship Fundraising and master storyteller.

You’ll want to go online today and add Ken’s Story telling can change the world to your library. US buyers should go here; Canadian, UK and European buyers should go here.

Here’s why Ken’s book is must-read.

Whether you’re a copywriter, consultant, development officer, or CEO the most important skill for any would-be influencer is the ability to tell a good story. To win the sale, spark the buzz, plant the seed, secure the gift, spur the extra effort or turn an argument around you need to engage, interest, involve, inspire and, ultimately move people to action.

Influencers do this best by telling stories.

Not just any story, but what Ken calls ‘transformational storytelling’. And this book is jam-packed with powerful and practical illustrations of nonprofit transformational stories.

Ken explains that ‘transformational storytelling’ is the topmost end of this enviable, practical skill. He defines it as “the ability to effortlessly, painlessly, persuade others to willingly do something that otherwise, most likely, they would not. It’s the most versatile, most valuable asset for anyone working in any number of professional and technical business areas.”

As I noted on the cover of Story telling can change the world: to hell with statistics, policy pronouncements and self–absorbed institutional tripe. The world needs stories, transformational stories that move audiences to action that can change the world. This book shows us how.

I’m not alone in my praise. Harvey McKinnon, author of the best-selling Power of Giving says Burnett is “a master storyteller, sharing hundreds of inspirational examples of how you can improve your skills in this crucial area.”

And Aline Reid, creative director at the bluefrog agency says, “this is an essential read for anyone who wants to put storytelling at the heart of their messaging, fundraising, or brand building.”

Does the world really need another book about storytelling? According to Tom Ahern, veteran fundraiser and a masterful storyteller in his own right, the answer is that we sure need this one.

Says Tom: “A big thanks is in order. What you have here is a compendium of everything known about storytelling in the fundraising context. It’s an amazingly helpful desk reference. I found new details about familiar subjects (emotions, for instance); unfamiliar insights; good swift kicks in the pants … every page has something worth hearing for the first or the hundredth time.”

You get tips from great writers and storytellers. People like Elmore Leonard, the author and screenwriter renowned for his gritty plots and authentic dialogue. I love Leonard’s 10 rules of writing/storytelling (page 216). Perhaps his best rule is the one he added as the 11th: “If it sounds like writing I rewrite it.”

In this book you’ll learn about the “power of reciprocity” and “making the right offer” (Page 192). You’ll find out the most important word in storytelling. That word is the simple pronoun “you” … and Ken shows you how to effectively use it.

Organizations who employ good copywriters will learn from this book how the client so often ruins effective storytelling and how to avoid that.

Unlike John Updike (“If I knew something that would make a crucial difference I would keep it to myself.”), Ken Burnett generously shares his insights and findings. He outlines ‘The Six Questions to Ask Before You Start Your Story’ (page 161) and reveals the ‘world-changers seven most powerful words’.

A couple of features you don’t often find. Each chapter ends with a pithy summary of that section’s contents. All summarized under ‘Actions and Key Messages’. You might even want to plaster your office wall or home refrigerator with post-it notes of these summaries. Like: “When you have a great story you can use and re-use it for decades.” Or: “Aspire to be a life changer, not a junk marketer.”

And for those who work in media or channels beyond direct mail there’s lots and lots for you. You’ll find out how to tell a winning story not only on paper, but also on mobile, in email, on brick walls and just about any place. There is a difference in the way each is done. You want to know this.

Story telling can change the world not only details, with stunning and moving examples, the campaigns of today, but also chronicles the glorious history of raising money for those in need.

Refresh your humanity and your commitment to our craft in these pages. Order Story telling can change the world today.


P.S. BONUS: Ken has prepared the book with a big bonus for all of us — The Online Story Bank aims to create a free, permanent collection of surprising, engaging and informative stories. A showcase of the best ‘change’ stories from around the world to inspire writers, storytellers or anyone hoping to influence anything at all.

The Online Story Bank twins with SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, which also has many examples of storytelling that will change the world.

P.P.S. Agitator readers who’d like a copy of Ken’s Story telling inscribed by the author can go here.

This article was posted in: Communications, Copywriting / creative, Fundraising philosophy/profession.
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