Trilix recently welcomed Sara Kurovski, CEO and president of Make-A-Wish® Iowa, to Trilix Studio where we talked about harnessing the power of storytelling, especially from a nonprofit perspective, on our Trilix Podcast. Read on to find a few of the questions we covered, which have been edited for clarity and consistency, and listen to the full episode on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts or PodBean

Trilix: How do you determine the value of storytelling?

Sara: I think first and foremost, the value of it really can't be placed on an exact measure. Stories are so essential. Being a nonprofit, you must have your story of the organization’s impact be told in a way that connects with individuals, donors, volunteers and the families you're trying to reach in order to best serve them.

Without this powerful connection tool, we can't fulfill our vision and mission. And so, through storytelling, we have the potential to branch the disconnect with families who qualify and help them understand or recognize why their child deserves a wish.

Trilix: How do you find the impactful stories and tell them in a way that resonates?

Sara: Because nonprofits like Make-A-Wish are so personal in the work they do, it can be a challenge to tell those stories — not everybody wants their story told. So, when we’re able to find the right family who is brave enough and willing to share their story and then to be able to have really great partners who can draw it out and make it possible, it is such an incredible opportunity.

It's being patient, talking with families, having us understand what they're going through and helping them understand their story’s impact. Then having this great team come in who are experts in their industry and offer outside perspective. When in an organization, you get too close to the work and, sometimes, you can forget what could be interesting to somebody else.

Once we find a family willing to share their story and partner them with the great people at Trilix, I feel like magic happens. And it's just so incredible when it does.

Trilix: Obviously, you want to engage the families you are already working with but certainly volunteers and donors, too. What are some of those unique challenges that come with trying to tell a story that engages all those individuals?

Sara: I would say our No. 1 unique challenge is budget. We don't have enough money to tell all the stories we could and should be telling, so prioritizing what's essential right now is the hardest part.

With potential partners, like donors and volunteers, they have a hard time understanding Make-A-Wish and what a wish means until they've witnessed or been part of one. Through storytelling, we can connect those dots in a much more meaningful way than having me stand up in front of a room talking about what we do or in a business presentation.

Having an impactful story brings people in so much faster and helps them understand at a much higher level than just “here's a one-pager” or “here's our annual report.” And while those communication pieces are necessary, telling the stories makes all of what we do possible. I've been fortunate enough to sit in some meetings, different galas and events where you have an opportunity to show a video, and people can see the story and connect immediately. What could be said in an hour's worth of PowerPoint slides and financial statements hits home in about 90 seconds. And when they get it, you can see the immediate switch of “I'm in, and I've made the decision right now, emotionally, that I want to figure out how I can participate.” It’s invaluable.

When we look at budgets and it’s time to make tough decisions, we sometimes get to a point where we have to ask if it's granting this wish or doing a marketing video — what's more valuable? Of course, most would say grant the wish. However, we try to look at it as an assist with communicating the message to the stakeholders who make our financial decisions: What story can I tell that would help us raise more dollars and have the ability to grant more wishes?

Building the budget to get those stories across in an impactful way is important from the get-go. 

Trilix: Have any moments surprised you, where a story has made an impact you didn't expect?

Sara: Yes. One very distinct one. I was very nervous when we were going to showcase Evan’s wish a few years ago at our gala in front of 800 people. I didn’t know how it would be received. What would it be like to watch grown men and women cry in front of each other, all dressed to the nines at a beautiful event? We watched it together, and the room just went silent. When the video ended, you could only hear the tissues and then, suddenly, a standing ovation. One after another after another, people were raising their hands to give. I knew the story was good, but I didn’t realize the impact until that happened. It was incredible.

The Trilix team covered this and so much more with Sara on the Trilix Podcast, your source for innovative marketing news, tips and strategies. Listen to the full episode and tune in every other week as we cover the ideas agencies thrive on.