The Community Foundation: Our Stories Make Us a Community

Greenville thrives on a spirit of community. We are made up of church communities, residential communities, learning communities and, most notably, communities of giving. When Greenville was ranked as one of the top most giving cities in the US, it was no surprise. We knew about Greenville’s giving community because we’ve worked ticket sales together or we saw each other at last week’s charity gala.

When we Greenvillians meet as strangers, we quickly find a common cause we support. We listen to each other’s stories about how CommunityWorks Carolina helped a small business get started, how Habitat for Humanity created a home for a family and also a fellowship for the builders, how The Anonymous People concert packed an auditorium full of supporters for FAVOR. We all know someone who gives to or benefits from this community of giving. We know because these are the stories we tell each other. When we decide where to give or how to become involved or who we should go to for help…our actions are based on these stories we’ve shared.

As released this month in the Community Foundation’s Annual Report, the 2013 Community Enrichment Grants awarded 23 local nonprofits grants based on the stories of need we heard in the community and the stories we heard from nonprofits striving to meet those needs. Each grant applicant worked hard to tell their stories so that the Community Foundation would recognize that vital connection. The stories were critical to helping an organization stand out as the best steward of funding dollars. We had to understand clearly what the organization was all about, what their goals were, how they had been successful, how they hoped to improve, how they uniquely made a difference in the community.

Nonprofits can struggle to tell their stories. They have difficulty speaking with one voice about their work. They often speak in generalizations instead of specifics and their band of dedicated volunteers may not even know the stories of how the organization was formed or the plans for future growth. A nonprofit’s unique stories—with less attention on memorizing flow charts—are valuable investments for nonprofits to have in their story “banks.” These are the stories that motivate us to volunteer, to donate and support.

At the Community Foundation, we encourage grant proposals that generate community support, both professional and volunteer. Telling your nonprofit’s story well is the first step.

The Community Foundation is sponsoring DNA Creative Communications’ 2013 Shine the Light on Your Non-Profit workshop series. On Wednesday, August 7 at the Kroc Center, the second workshop in the series is aimed at assisting nonprofits with their storytelling skills. “Successful Public Relations: Telling and Selling Your Story” will offer tips for putting details into a story form and what kind of story form to communicate with—brochure, Facebook, newspaper, YouTube, radio, photo essay, Tweet? They’ve also invited media pros that will coach non-profits on story telling secrets for different media strategies.

There’s a place for charts and graphs and numbers that support a nonprofit’s intent, but it’s the story of the child whose life was saved, the family who had shelter, the clean water, nutritious food, or health services that I will remember when we meet one day. We won’t be strangers because we will share these stories and these stories are the building blocks of our community.

See the Community Foundation’s annual report and 2013 Grant awards at cfgreenville.org. Register for “Successful Public Relations: Telling and Selling Your Story” at dnacc.com or call 864-235-0959 x9.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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