Community Voices Series
Sustaining Your Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts
THE POWER OF TELLING YOUR STORY
In any number of cultures throughout the country and around the world, the tradition of story- telling has been used as a vehicle for sharing the rich history and lived experiences of people and communities. The same people may or may not have had the ability to write or read, or a platform for sharing their story. Whether folk tales, or stories recanting actual events, the act of telling the story plays an integral part in the fabric of these communities. The position of “story-teller” is an important one, because the story-teller determines what the message is and sets the tone for how it will be received.
How does this relate to teen pregnancy prevention in Georgia? The answer is simple: Your ability to tell your story and make the case for your work (through your story) may determine whether or not your teen pregnancy prevention programs are sustained. We have already established the importance of remembering “your why”; we recognized that who we work with and partner with is almost as important as what we do; now, we must learn the art of story- telling. Too often, practitioners in the field become somewhat desensitized. We work with youth, hear their amazing stories of challenges, overcoming obstacles and triumphant successes. We celebrate for the moment, and then forget them. Sometimes it’s a story that a stakeholder, community member or youth has shared with you that re-catalyzes your love for your work and your job and reminds you why the work you do is so important. More often than not, we hear these stories, celebrate for a moment and go back to the daily grind. I contend that these are huge missed opportunities. A colleague of mine did some amazing work for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) around donor engagement and understanding why donors give. The first thing that was really interesting to me, was actually the main reason donors (or potential donors) didn’t give. Want to guess what the answer was…? Yep, because no one asked them! That aside, the focus of the paper was really, why donors give. The single most consistent answer, was because they saw images and read actual stories that moved them to take action. In some way, the story fostered a connection between the donor and the work. This connection compelled them to become a part of the work in the way that worked best for them. In most instances, it was by making a donation or giving support.
The same holds true for individuals and organizations that have access to tremendous financial resources. Philanthropic organizations often have a clear vision for the type of work they will fund. If your work aligns with their interests, your ability to tell your story may be the only thing keeping you from financial support for your work. Here are few story-telling tips:
- Paint a picture. Your story telling should paint a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.
- Clearly define and make the case for your work, answer the question: why is this important?
- Make it personal. Connect your reader to the children that you serve or the community that they live in.
- Use personal stories of triumph and success that speak to the great work that your agency is doing.
- Be sure to speak to what could potentially happen if this work doesn’t continue.
I’m certain that as you are reading this article you can think of some young person whose life you impacted in a meaningful way through your program. That story needs to be told; now more than ever before.
This article was written by Jevon Gibson, CEO and Senior Consultant with Community Health Solutions, LLC (CHS) and founder of the Center for Adolescent Male Development (CAMD).