Dave Barringer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers some insights into the importance of telling our stories.
As we learn in our culture change seminars (hint:sign up for this pre-conference day at National Assembly!) our beliefs are shaped in large part by
our experiences. This is also true of an organization’s brand. Another word for a brand, for-profit or nonprofit organization alike, is the user experience.
Two recent experiences involving our beloved Society make this point.
Let’s explore the “bad news” story first. Recently in a western SVdP Council, an outside organization decided on its own to wear shirts or smocks with Society logos and solicit money. Money for themselves, apparently, as no funds were ever given to the SVdP Council. Now let’s ignore for the moment the legalities and so forth of this situation, and view it as recognition of the brand. If someone wants to pretend to be some other organization and collect money, it makes sense that they would choose an organization with such a good reputation – another name for one’s brand – that people would
donate. While the Council obviously didn’t want strangers telling their story and asking for money, it can take some comfort in knowing they must have been chosen because the alleged identity thief thought the Society’s brand was going to be profitable!
Now for the “good news” story. President Sheila Gilbert and I were on EWTN television a few months ago telling the story of our Society’s people and works. A foundation leader already interested in us saw the episode, contacted our office and wanted to help.
Learning a little more about how we operate and what our Vincentians do for and with the poor, we received a check for $100,000 to support the Friends of the Poor grant program!
But wait, it gets even better. When the second taped episode of the EWTN show aired in May, the foundation leaders heard International President Michael Thio talk about the Commission for International Aid and Development (CIAD) and they saw a crawl across the bottom of the screen asking for help for the victims of the Nepal earthquake. The foundation added another $15,000 to help. And because I mentioned during the show that we provided medical assistance, they inquired about what our Councils and Conferences do in this regard. As a result we anticipate another significant grant to provide dental program startup and assistance for our members. Many other viewers gave online during and after the episode.
We had hoped that EWTN viewers might get a clearer picture of our Society’s presence and benefits in their communities. We hoped they might even contact you locally to join us as new Vincentians or even to start a new Conference in their parish. We didn’t ask for money, we asked only for prayers and local support. That’s the real power of a great brand, though; sometimes you don’t need to ask. And at other times, the asking for financial support is so much easier because the potential donor knows you, trusts you and appreciates what you will do with their donation. That’s real brand power!
We have such a great story to tell! As the above experiences illustrate, if people know us, they want to be attached to our work and to our brand. They may never become Vincentians themselves. They may not even, as the first story illustrates, have ethical and legal attachments in mind! They can however connect with us through their volunteer contributions, their financial and material donations, and through their
As a Vincentian you are no less than the living embodiment of our international, national and local Society brand. The Vincentian experiences you have every day build our story, and build user experiences among those in need with whom we walk, among donors, government officials, parishioners, everyone. Your brand-building power escalates exponentially when you tell people how you and your conference members develop spiritually through your charitable work, and how others benefit from your putting such faith into action.
Your next donor or your next conference member may be the next person you meet.
Isn’t it nice to know that the Vincentian brand we carry within us is a positive one of
God, faith, and love?
Yours in Christ,