When I do my storytelling workshops with a board of directors, many members for the first time discover that they have something to say on the organization’s behalf. There is no magic wand I wave, I just help them collect their thoughts rather than memorize a message. I believe every board member has a story about the organization and cause they represent. They just need to be encouraged to tell it.

As a board member for Teenwise Minnesota, I was once asked to speak at our gala event. Teenwise helps educators support young people in making positive choices about their sexual health and advances science-based policy regarding sex education. I ran out of time to carefully prepare my remarks, but I had a recent conversation with my 12-year old daughter about the organization that morning. When I got to the podium, I spoke about her. I expressed my concerns about her getting older, how badly our first “birds and bees” conversation went, and why its important for me and all adults to be Teenwise. I didn’t have lots of fact and figures at my finger tips, but I had my own experience.  I could see immediately that my audience understood where I was coming from. They could relate. Also, they saw why the organization was valuable to me and in witnessing that they could affirm why its valuable to them.

We need to give board members the opportunity to share their experiences about the organization and cause– at board meetings, committee meetings, events, etc. In doing so and hearing stories from their colleagues, they are able to deepen their own sense of why the organization’s work is valuable and help expand relationships and influence for the cause by sharing their story with friends and colleagues.

Here are a few tips:

– Encourage board members to speak from their own experiences. Even if they do not have a deep familiarity with the organization, have them relate the organization’s work to something that they may have witnessed or had happened to them in the past.

– Create space for them to practice. We often use time at board meetings to bring in staff and participants to talk about their experiences. This is great. We also have to provide time for board members to share their stories with each other.

– Recognize that every board members has a story, but not every board member is a great storyteller. This is okay. It’s not your job to develop great story tellers. Every board member needs to engage in this work, because its value extend beyond trying to influence people, it helps reaffirm their commitment to the organization.