The Mikuska Group  

What’s your story?

If you are a volunteer or on the staff of a non-profit organization or a charity, you likely have personal reasons why you are involved in the particular cause. Learn to talk about those reasons and you’ll have the ability to tell others about your personal involvement story.

What’s powerful about your story? It’s emotional. And we know people are moved to action with their hearts. Instead of trying to sell someone on why your organization is great, you can tell them why you’re involved, and ask them to join you. It’s a much more comfortable place.

Christopher Davenport of, offers some questions to help you craft your story:

  1. When were you first aware of the organization?
  2. What one thing stood out to you at first?
  3. What was the impact the organization had in the community that made you want to give your time, talent and money?
  4. Why do you personally feel compelled to give?
  5. How did you first get involved (as a volunteer, donor, board member, staff member)?
  6. Is there a special person or reason you continue to support the organization?
  7. Why do you think it’s a worthy cause?

When you’re writing your story, remember it’s not really about you. It’s about donors who are the heroes who make it possible for your organization to have impact on individuals.

What’s your story?

Julie Mikuska.


Food security vs. good food

How you talk about issues is just as important as the issues themselves if you are to be heard.

One of the biggest walls in communication is jargon. It exists in every domain, every organization. It comes from what Chip Heath and Dan Heath call “the curse of knowledge.” In their must-have book, Made to Stick:Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Diethey say:

“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”

 A prime example of jargon exists in the world of “food security.” In our work with Food Matters Manitoba, we have helped them to overcome the jargon of food security with the goal of talking about “good food for all.” In their recently published Gratitude Report, they say:

“Thanks to you, local gardens are now nourishing people in Brochet. This year, under the leadership of Trina Halkett, a community-built greenhouse significantly extended the short growing season. And two young people were hired to help tend the garden and teach others. Malcolm, a student in grade nine, was one of them.

In Brochet, where a ten pound bag of potatoes costs $30, fresh produce is highly valued. In early September Malcolm harvested potatoes, onions, cabbage and turnips. After the harvest he visited more than 30 Elders to deliver bags of vegetables.”

In contrast, today’s Winnipeg Free Press has an article entitled Food security off the table in election. Clearly the authors are experts in this area, but much of the article is a hard slog, because it’s written in an academic style filled with jargon. For example:

“Providing sustainable funding for community food co-ordinators in all northern communities is a first step toward inclusive and community-based solutions. There also needs to be a complete overhaul of Nutrition North that includes financial support for hunting and gathering and own-food production, as well as federal regulation of the prices for food and other necessary goods and services. A basic income floor adjusted to reflect northern costs would go a long way to alleviating poverty more broadly.”

What does this really mean? What will it look like on the ground, talking about real people?

Unfortunately, we all suffer from the curse of knowledge. But once you recognize you’re speaking and writing in jargon, take steps to make your communication concrete and simple. That’s when your message will become more clearly understood. 

Julie Mikuska.


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