There is an increasing understanding of the value of powerful stories to a charity’s communications, fundraising and campaigning activities. More and more charities are investing in this area, by commissioning freelance support and by employing individuals to lead story gathering activities.
Those working in charities as case study officers/story managers/in-house journalists (delete as appropriate!) can find themselves in a tricky position. The job is an exciting one. You are frequently in contact with beneficiaries, volunteers and operational staff, you get first-hand experience of the impact of the charity in the way most of your colleagues only dream of and you are directly responsible for producing material that inspires and influences donors, campaigners, the media and policy-makers.
But it can also be a challenge. It can feel like you spend more of your time responding to other people’s priorities and panics than researching new stories, different teams have different ideas about how beneficiaries should be portrayed and even if the organisation employs you it might not have budget for professional writers, photographers and filmmakers so it feels like your area of work is not reaching its full potential.
Of course, everyone has frustrations in their work but those in story gathering roles can feel more isolated because often they work alone and do not have colleagues who are having the exact same experience or who can help shoulder the challenges. Roles are usually housed in communications or fundraising teams, but with internal clients across the organisation it is easy to feel you belong everywhere and nowhere.
This is where The Story Network comes in. It will be a place where those with responsibility for story gathering in their charity can find a team away from home! It will provide an environment where individuals with similar experiences and roles can participate in open and honest discussions about challenges, best practice and learning. At each meeting we will agree a topic or issue to focus on at the next meeting and one member will lead the discussion. We will also share articles of interest and examples of storytelling from inside or outside the charity sector that have inspired, excited or even angered us. Nothing is set in stone – the group and the way it operates will evolve in a way that’s helpful to all.
We propose to meet quarterly, on a Wednesday, in the late afternoon. Keeping it within office hours will enable those with evening commitments and caring responsibilities to attend but it also means there is the opportunity to tack on a social aspect if people fancy it. Membership is free!
The first meeting will take place on Wednesday 23rd January at 16.00. We will confirm the first venue closer to the time, based on where is most convenient to all involved, but at the moment we’re thinking about a free space that has good coffee and cake such as the Barbican or Royal Festival Hall.
If you are interested in joining us then email me on firstname.lastname@example.org