Telling your story

nkosi johnson

by Tim Kennedy, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

“Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place where you are.”

This quote was recently shared with me and I can’t get enough of it. It’s a quote from Nkosi Johnson, a 12 year old South African Aids patient who didn’t make it to age 13 after passing away in 2001. Nkosi was both an AIDS patient and an AIDS Awareness advocate who brought an overwhelming amount of awareness to this horrible disease. Considered one of the longest surviving children with AIDS in South Africa, he had a very simple message of do all you can with what you have.

I share this quote and story because too many times we try to complicate the message, muddle the story and obscure the communication. Nkosi had a plain and simple message – help those affected by AIDS. Yes he had a world stage and a determined personality and storyline, but we all have purposeful stories in the organizations we represent. The stage to tell your story exists whether it’s through donors, clients, advocates and board members, they ALL serve as our audience but also serve as the voice that should and will speak on your behalf. Do all you can with what you have.

Are you properly telling your story? Are you utilizing the many i-stories (the stories that represent your mission) that live out your organizations day to day activities? Are you imbedded and aligned with Marketing & Communications and making sure you have the best possible storyline? The investors in your mission want to hear it. They want to see the organizations direct impact through your most inspiring story. Do all you can with what you have.

There is so much noise out there especially this year being an election year, and communicating your message and telling your story needs to be carefully crafted more than ever. It needs to have purpose. It needs to stand out. It needs to have the lens of Nkosi. Run it by a few of your board members (young and old), for their feedback prior to sharing universally with your stakeholders.

Communicating with donors is about telling the story in the most meaningful way possible that will propel them to act. Will it resonate? Is it getting to the root of the mission? Is it who we are as an organization? Repeating the mission and the services you provide isn’t going to cut it. Tell the real story – tell your i-Story. Nkosi had an amazing story and an amazing impact on the AIDS epidemic. Try and find your Nkosi story and always remember…

“Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place where you are.”


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