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Telling the Intermediary’s Story

Posted by on January 4th, 2011
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Design, Nonprofit Fundraising, Nonprofit Messaging, Storytelling    Tags: , , , , , ,

If you have attended one of our Minute Message Model trainings, you know that we are big proponents of telling stories. But what do you do if your organization doesn’t provide direct services. Is there still a story to tell?

Many organizations in the nonprofit world are intermediaries — those organizations that are a conduit for good, but may not actually provide services themselves. The United Way is a perfect example of this: it solicits donations from employees across the country and redistributes that charitable giving across hundreds of agencies. It’s great work, but is there a compelling story in it?

There is indeed a compelling story, and the secret is to avoid talking about HOW you do your work as an intermediary and instead tell a story that focuses on the impacts of your work.

Take Mission Minded’s client, REDF, as an example. As an intermediary, REDF’s work is complex. The organization applies a venture capital approach to philanthropy, channeling philanthropic and leadership support to organizations that earn revenue in support of their missions. As they say on their website:

REDF is a venture philanthropy that invests exclusively in social enterprises that employ and empower people overcoming barriers to work.

Read that sentence again.

And one more time.

What you just read is a factual description of REDF’s work, but it isn’t likely to stick in your mind. That’s where a story can be helpful. When you see REDF’s work in action, you’re more likely to remember it.

But here’s the challenge: rather than tell a story about how REDF provided philanthropic and leadership support to one of its grantees, REDF must instead tell a story that illustrates the organization’s impact.

REDF does this well with the lead graphics on its site and the stories that accompany them:

Both Gary’s and David’s stories focus on positive outcomes for individuals served by a program funded by REDF. Although REDF didn’t directly serve either man, by beginning the conversation with their stories, readers can more easily understand the important work REDF does.

If you work for an intermediary, try this approach the next time you need to tell your story. Start with the individuals whose lives are changed as a result of your work, then connect the dots to show how your organization helped bring about that change.


*Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.

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One response to “Telling the Intermediary’s Story”

  1. You really served as an excellent translator for REDF in moving beyond a description of facts to distilling their essence and making it inspiring!