Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story with Dawn Gluskin
Dawn Gluskin has spent the past 12 years in the electronic distribution field. In 2008, she became Founder and CEO of SolTec Electronics, an independent distributor and procurement partner to OEM and EMS companies for hard-to-find and obsolete electronic components. A true entrepreneur story, she started SolTec by herself, working from her home office (when her first born daughter was just 6 months old) and quickly grew the company from $0 into a multimillion dollar revenue generating firm. As one of the pioneers in the movement to detect counterfeit components and clean up the supply chain, combined with a strong social media presence, SolTec achieved much notoriety in the industry during their 6 years in business.
She has brought her accounts & expertise over to North Shore Components, an industry-leader in the counterfeit detection & avoidance movement with an ISO/IEC 17025 certified on-site test facility, OEM excess inventory in house, and AS6081, AS9120, and CCAP-101 certifications.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: I met Dawn at Shannon’s Business Acceleration Summit. Dawn is also a presenter at CEO Space. She’s gone from zero to 97 in about three seconds. Her sweet spot, Dawn, tell us a little bit about your background and why do you do this? What is it that you do? Tell us a little bit about that and why.
Dawn Gluskin: Sure. Thank you. Yes, I’m Dawn Gluskin, and my company is called Blissed Communications. I help entrepreneurs and nonprofits and leaders tell their stories that need to be heard in the world. I do this because it’s a really brilliant, powerful form of marketing. If you want to connect with the heart of your people, if you want to move people, if you want to impact people, you have to be a good storyteller. You have to be open and vulnerable. That is where all the connection and the magic happens. I teach this. I also work with people one on one to help them write their signature stories or website copy. All that good stuff. I also help them through their mindset and get to the heart of who they are. Sometimes, why people don’t tell their story is because either they don’t think they have a good one, they’re not interesting enough, nobody cares, or they’re scared to tell it, people are going to judge me, all that stuff as well.
You, Hugh, asked how this got to be my message and my mission. That is actually a great story. I always knew I would be a writer when I grew up until the world convinced me I would never make any money doing that. So I went to school for business instead. That is what got me started in sales and marketing. I have been doing that in some capacity for the last 20 years. My journey took me accidentally into the fabulous ultra-sexy world of selling electronic components. I did that for 15 years. I was selling semiconductors to Fortune 500 companies. Made a lot of good money doing that. Started my own business. Went from zero to $3 million in revenue in our first two years. I always tell everyone I had five great years in that business. We were open for seven. Long, painful story short, ended up having to shut that business down. We lost a lot of money and couldn’t keep the doors open anymore. We had some government regulations come down that affected our bottom line. I went from zero to $3 million back to zero again. I carried a lot of shame around that. What’s next? I had to go back and work for one of my old competitors while I tried to get my life together. I realized two things. I was the same person who still achieved all of this stuff in the first place. Sometimes we have a failure happen, and we think all the good stuff we’ve ever done has been wiped out. I never wanted to sell electronic components when I grew up anyway. I wanted to write and to help people.
So what ended up happening is I decided to write a blog post for The Huffington Post called “The Power of Owning Your Story.” The premise was either you own your story, or it owns you. What it owns you looks like is carrying around shame. I don’t want them to find this out about me because they will judge me, they won’t like me, they won’t want to hire me. I came out, I told my story, and two things happened. That weight, heaviness was lifted. The antidote to shame is vulnerability. It was no longer a burden. The other thing was people were reading it and thanking me for being vulnerable, “You inspired me to share my story. Can I hire you? I want you to help me write my story.” That’s how my new company was born.
I realized there is a big need for that in the marketplace. People want to see more vulnerability, more authenticity. Stories are powerful. It is a way to make instant connection. I signed a five-figure contract from a blog post, which is unheard of typically. There are many meetings and things that have to take place to gain that level of trust. But stories connect that deeply. Here we are now. I am doing what I love, so that universal 2×4 over the head when I lost my business was actually a blessing in disguise. That is where I am now, and I love helping others tell their story. Everyone has their own version of that, their own signature story, that helps them connect.
Hugh: That is a powerful reframing. We let those situations define us, and those are really learning opportunities, aren’t they?
Dawn: Yeah. Yeah, everything is happening for us instead of to us. If you can take that on in your life, that simple statement, it’s really powerful. What’s the gift in this, I always ask. What is the gift? Why is this happening? What is the blessing here?
Hugh: You said you didn’t want to sell electronic components when you grew up. That is one of the differences between men and women. Men never grow up. We define ourselves in funny ways, don’t we? I think you’re being transparent and being vulnerable with that story can in itself inspire a lot of people. You help people market by defining their language, building their story, building that whole image, that verbal image, to attract their market.
Dawn: Yes. When people put themselves out there, whether it’s on their website, their copy, their message, their emails, their social media, a lot of times people- How do I say this? They don’t put their whole heart forward, their whole selves forward. What you end up seeing is some very boring, bland copy that doesn’t tell the story. It doesn’t give the readers any- Why do they care? They are afraid to come out and be who they are, or they don’t have the right words to say it. It’s all in their head. It makes perfect sense in here, and they try to put it out there, and it’s just not connecting. It’s not easy to do, especially when it’s your own story. You have lived your life for X amount of years, however long you have been on this Earth. There is a lot that has happened. How do I take that and put it into this, something that will make sense in my business? That is a challenge for people. But when you get that right, it really opens up everything.
Hugh: Why do people feel like they can’t talk about their story? Why do they feel insecure about being able to share a story? Is it that they think they are putting too much attention on themselves? Why don’t people embrace this?
Dawn: There are a few different things. One is putting attention on themselves. When it comes to sharing the highlights and big achievements and accomplishments, a lot of people are humble, so they don’t want to come across as bragging. They just feel uncomfortable about bragging themselves up. That is one thing that happens.
Another thing is people put themselves in a box. There is a rulebook about what you are allowed to say, what you are supposed to say. Maybe a coach or a consultant, they have had some training about ten things of what not to do. We have all these rules in our life that become ingrained, so there is a lot of confusion around business and personal. Some people, the old school teaching is you keep them separate. They are two different things, and you don’t overlap them.
There is a new paradigm in business where it all overlaps a little more, especially with social media. There is so much transparency going on. There is so much visibility. If you have a corporation and you have an oopsy-daisy, you can’t sweep that thing under the rug. You have to own it. You have to say how you learned, how you are going to be better because of it. That is a new way of doing business. People are used to doing business the old way, “Nobody cares about me. It’s just about the business,” but it’s all intertwined. Especially with the millennials coming up, they are all about transparency, all about, “Who am I spending my money with? Can I trust you? Are you going to do what you say you’ll do?” What better way to gain trust than by being open and by sharing your story?
Hugh: There is your story, and there is also the story of the value of the work that your charity is doing. We are talking to clergy, nonprofit leaders, community leaders, organization chairs, association chairs. We are talking about people who- In my experience, organizations are not really good about sharing their story about the impact that their work has. There is various kinds of stories that I’m thinking about. When you are raising money, you are talking about the value of what you’re doing and the programs you’re doing and why it’s important. But it’s also important to describe the impact of what we’re doing.
Dawn Gluskin is an expert because of her experience in life, in telling, in helping people tell a story. What I’m hearing, and I’m not sure you’ve used these words, but I’m hearing you talk about how to create a compelling story that has impact on the listener. In a nonprofit world, we are talking about the impact that we have on people’s lives. Speak to that a little bit, would you?
Dawn: That is a brilliant distinction. The story always has to be about a person. It could be about the movement. It could be about what’s possible in the future. I’ll give an example. You and I were together at a summit, the Business Acceleration Summit, this past week. They had a dinner where they always invite a nonprofit. The nonprofit they invited to this particular awards ceremony was the Children’s Hunger Project. Their mission is they collect and pack food and they give it out to the teachers for children for their schools to take home on the weekends. During the week, they get free lunch. On the weekends, they go home and are hungry all weekend. They started this program to make sure they have food on the weekends and during the summer so they are always fed.
An example of what happens sometimes is a nonprofit might talk about the features of what they do. The features of what they do would be we collect food, we package it, we give it to teachers, and they pass it out. They are telling you the how of what happens. Inside of that, you might be like, “Okay, that’s a worthy cause. I want to get involved.” But if you want to bring it to the next level, you bring in the story part of it. You bring in what’s possible.
They did a brilliant job of this. They showed a video at the dinner that was really good. They interviewed one of the teachers. What they said was they have 3,000 children who qualify for this program and who need food over the weekends, but they only currently have enough money and products to feed 1,500. They give the food to the teachers, and the teachers have to dish it out and decide who gets a meal this weekend. One of the teachers was talking about how heartbreaking it is and how one of the students came up to her and was crying when he found out he wasn’t going to get a package to take home that weekend. He was like, “But I need it. I’m not going to have any food all weekend.” She was in tears, and the whole room is in tears. It goes from collecting food and passing it out, to this is a real person. He is going home without food. Can you imagine going a whole weekend without food? That is the power of how you can show your people, connect with their heart of what you are really doing.
Hugh: That is powerful. I do remember that. They are raising money, but they are not raising enough money. In a place like that, they need to be able to accelerate their level of impact to donors. I am thinking there is a number of places that stories could be important.
I am going to toss it to my co-host Russell David Dennis. He is the good-looking one on the other side here. Russell, in Aurora, they put Denver on the map, Aurora, Colorado. Russell, you worked inside of a nonprofit for 11 years, I happen to know. You were the person that helped them source funding. As you’re hearing her talk about stories, it would occur to me that there is more than one place that we need to develop stories. What are some of the things that come to mind for you?
Russell Dennis: The trouble with stories are they are kinda a double-edged sword because Dawn talked about mistakes. I’ve had challenges. Who hasn’t? But we get stuck in the stories of a bad experience, and we drag that around. We can tell ourselves these stories that stick with us even though they are no longer true. If we are stuck in the wrong story, we give off the wrong vibration.
Here’s the thing. We are telling stories. Nonprofits, you are telling a story, whether that is consciously or unconsciously. What comes off unconsciously a lot of times is scarcity. We don’t want to sound like we don’t have any humility. We don’t want to brag. The fact is that nonprofit leaders of these organizations that are serving people are bringing all kinds of value out there. You’re not showing up with your hat in your hand. All of these catastrophes can turn into superpowers when you put them into perspective. When you talk about these catastrophes and they don’t have any power over you, people relate to you. Whoa, okay. It’s some Superman figure that is worth a billion dollars. That is not their experience. They can’t imagine being in that place. Where does that level of consciousness connect? Heroes are people who others can relate with. They can relate with, Hey, they’ve been down, they may be experiencing some of that right where they are at this moment. They are down, they are struggling, they are having a hard time. But you come back. Ordinary people overcome extraordinarily bad circumstances to become heroes. People fit into that story. They want to be a part of that. They want to relate to that. That’s how you make that connection, that emotional connection. Vulnerability is a part of that. Vulnerability, transparency, authenticity, they want to know that you’re real. People who can relate to you are gonna support you.
It took a while to work its way back around, but relationships. Everything is based on relationships. Where there is any type- To be successful in any area of your life, you have to build good relationships. Where nonprofits are concerned, they tell a story of scarcity. They tell a story of hard times. They pull on the heartstrings. Yes, there is need out there, but when you go out there and your narrative is about, “You know what? We gotta have this money because I don’t want to lay these three people off in the back office. They’re really nice people,” what you’re doing is talking about what you need. The narrative needs to be on, “Hey, these are the people we’re serving. We are bringing massive value here. Here is how we are making a difference in the lives of people who started at Point A. We move them to Point B with your help. But to move them to Point C, we want to partner with you to do this.” What does partnering mean? It could mean writing a check, it could mean serving on a board, it could mean volunteering. It could mean any number of things. But you have to determine what that is and talk to people in a way that resonates with them. Find out what matters to them, and explain how you’re solving a problem for them or bringing them value. It’s not about you; it’s about all of these people that you’re serving and the people paying for those services. I gotta take in some air and get off my soapbox because my coffee’s getting cold.
Hugh: Those are good points. Dawn, do you want to respond to that?
Dawn: Yeah, I think you made a lot of good points there. First, when you talked about sharing your story, some people, the double-edged sword, you say, there is the story that we have that’s in our head that is controlling us, the narrative of our life, the story of “I’m not good enough. I’ve only done this.” You’re right. It does put off a negative energy. We really have to heal our stories. That’s what I talked about in my blog: the power of owning your story. You either own it, or it owns you. When you just accept all of the things that have happened, they are just things that have happened. This happened in my life. If you go back in your life and you look backwards, you can almost see how it’s all meant to happen and how one thing leads to another. You get stronger. You get smarter. How can I leverage this? How can I turn my pain into passion, my mess into my message? When you do share your story, you want to come from a place of inspiration, of where you have done the healing. We are not telling stories like, “I want my sympathy. Feel sorry for me.” Telling our sob stories. Okay, why isn’t the money pouring in? It doesn’t quite work like that. But you can tell your failures or your mistakes or the things that have happened. This is how I healed from it. This is how I learned from it. People feel empowered from that. People feel your heart. This is why I called this “Connecting to the Heart” because that’s what stories do. We see ourselves in each other’s stories.
Russell: Dawn, what do you find is the toughest part of bringing somebody from that place where the story is not serving them to- You meet them, and it’s like, Wow, you are doing some crazy good stuff here. But you are having the conversation, and somehow they are just missing the incredible power that they have. How do you go about shifting them from that place where they might be stuck in that story to recognizing how remarkable they are and how they can actually communicate that in a way that resonates with other people?
Dawn: I would usually do mindset work. Mindset in being that we all have beliefs running in the background, these programs that we have picked up on since we were children from our parents, our family, our teachers, the TV, advertisements. We get all these beliefs about ourselves. For women, with all the advertising about if you lose ten pounds, everyone is going to love you. You will be amazing. That program, because I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, everyone has their version of these programs that you have picked up. It’s really about reprogramming your own brain like reprogramming a computer. You have to put in good data. You have to rewrite it. I recommend journaling as a really good way. All of the things you want. I am powerful. I am enough. I am beautiful. Rewriting things until you believe it. Just every day, revisiting. When that voice comes up, not giving it power. The voice in your head is not who you are. You can just say, “The voice says I’m not good enough, but the truth is I am more than enough. I am a child of God. I am pure love,” whatever it is. You just rewrite them. Moment by moment, when you hear that negative thought coming up, you recreate it with a new thought. That works powerfully. It takes some time and commitment, but you can rewire your brain. Good stuff.
Hugh: How do you help people who are stuck? Russell and I deal with people every day who get stuck in a place. Your title “Own your story or it owns you.” That is a really good synopsis of how we all get there sometimes. What you did is have a conscious action to say, “No, that is not going to define me because what’s inside me defines me.” Not everybody has that ability to do that. When you find someone who has a compelling story but they need to have that kind of breakthrough, how do you help them find that?
Dawn: I can talk about this now, how I lost a $3 million dollar company like it’s what I had for breakfast. I had a banana and a green juice, and I lost a $3 million dollar company. It’s easy to say now. But to be clear, at the time, it was incredibly painful. I lost all my money. I was in debt. I had to go work for a competitor, which is the biggest piece of humble pie you could possibly eat just so I could pay my bills. I had gone from being in The New York Times and on the cover of all these local magazines, a hero, to nothing. I felt like I lost a piece of my identity. I was broken. I did a lot of the suffering and the “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” and “Nobody is ever going to want to work with me.” I had peaked. I was 35 at the time. This is it. This is the best I’m going to get, and it’s now just downhill from here. That was all going on in my head just to be clear. It went on for a while. It took several months for me to get out of it.
But what I did was I called in my support, my people, my angels, and had people reflect to me. “No, Dawn, you’re still an amazing human being. You’re still the person who created a $3 million dollar company at age 30.” They just reminded me who I was. Everyone needs that person or those people in their lives to be a mirror and to pick you up when you’re down and remind you of who you are. I think that’s important. I just did the work. To me, it’s journaling and meditation, taking care of my body physically, doing all that work. Sometimes we do get in a rut. And that’s okay. But don’t just stay there. Pull yourself out. Remember who you are, remember why you’re here on Earth and what you’re here to do and create. So that’s what I did.
Hugh: Wow. My dear, that is wisdom that is far past your years, your chronological years. That is very rare. A couple old guys here.
Dawn: There is an old soul in this body.
Hugh: I see that. But you’re actually accessing it and using it and using it to influence other people. We are at the halfway point in our- We can talk all day on this stuff. I try to keep it under an hour.
Let’s go back to the marketing piece. We have talked around it. I like to go back. Nonprofits, which is a stupid word, we are talking about instead for for-profit companies, for-purpose companies, social capital companies, charities.
Dawn: I like that.
Hugh: We are a tax-exempt company. We must embrace business principles. One of them is marketing. There is this whole anti-business thinking that goes on because we start with this nonprofit thing, which we dumb down. We think scarcity when really there is abundance out there everywhere. It’s there. It’s there for us to utilize because it’s not about us. It’s about the vision. It’s about the good we’re doing. I do find that there is a lot of people that are having trouble making that transition. They are living in this scarcity mindset. Let’s go back to talking about the importance of marketing and the importance of having this language piece down.
Dawn: Marketing is the vehicle that you are using to get your message out there. It’s how you go from the purpose, the passion that’s in your heart, and expressing it in a way that lands with the hearts of the people that you want to move and inspire and get on board. Like I was saying earlier, the #1 mistake I see people make—it happens in nonprofits and small businesses, too—is where people talk about the features instead of the benefits. The features is we are going to take your money and buy this, and this, and this with it. This is what we do. It’s important information. I’m not saying people don’t need to know that, but what moves people is the benefits. How is your donation of time or money going to help us change the world together? How are we going to impact these lives together?
Using specific examples, the little boy who goes hungry every weekend when he doesn’t get his box of food, that will inspire someone to open up their wallet and pay and donate or give up some of their time on the weekend and help package those boxes. Your marketing message really needs to be about painting the picture of tomorrow, a better tomorrow, a better future. How are we going to make this planet better? You have to empower the donator, empower the person you’re talking to, and reach their heart. Say you make a difference. By you opening up your wallet or by you donating this time, this is the effect it will have. We will feed 10 kids this weekend who would normally be starving until Monday morning. You will make a difference in their lives. You have to bring it home for them, make it real. That is what storytelling does.
There is a saying that data tells and story sells. The reason story sells is because stories go to the heart. It paints a picture, you can see it in your mind. It’s almost like you are taking that money and its’ going straight to the little boy. Otherwise it’s like I give the money to you, and hopefully you’ll do right with it. You have to show them, show them your heart, show them what’s possible. That’s powerful marketing. It’s truthful marketing, too. There is no gimmick. It’s just speaking truth.
Hugh: Do you work with people in a done-for-you work style, or do you teach people how to do it, or both?
Dawn: I do both. I have digital programs that will teach you how. I actually have a free offering on my website that is called Brand Story Mastery. It walks you through the steps of telling your powerful brand story. You can go to BlissedCommunications.com and download that for free. Then I have other levels. I also have one on one. A lot of times, people ask me to write stuff for them. I don’t like writing; it’s so hard. Can you do that for me? We do that as well.
Hugh: I have heard testimonies about the work that you have done for people at the conference where we were last week. Shannon was talking about how powerful your story was to help get the message across. Because it was a good story, it was picked up by more media. That is the other piece. We don’t really know how to do things. What Russell and I try to do is we try to convince leaders, no matter where they are, to hire someone who is better than them who can get the job done. It’s hard getting over the hump of we are spending money we don’t have. No, you’re investing in a process to generate more capital. So speak to that. The story, we have talked around that, too. The impact of that story. As I am thinking back over specific situations, I have worked with charities who have hundreds of stories. They have not written up a one of them.
Dawn: They are sitting on a gold mine.
Hugh: They are. It’s BlissedCommunications.com. I am guessing your blog is there, too.
Hugh: They go there, and they can get the whole thing. There is a problem here that we’re addressing. There is a system missing. Yes, it’s a marketing system, but it’s also- We’re sharing the impact of our work with people who could make a difference. We are creating a legacy in doing this work. We would like this legacy to go on- I’m a founder of a nonprofit. I’d like it to go on past my lifetime. It’s to everybody’s benefit that we tell the story. Let’s talk about systemically. The program that you have for free, could a nonprofit leader, if they wanted to get some board members or some volunteers to be the primary writers, is that a head start for them to get their head around the way they can write and what they could write about?
Dawn: Yes, absolutely. I really try to simplify the process. You don’t have to be a writer. You don’t have to be a good writer to do this process. I call it the Three C’s of Storytelling. The first C is Clarity. The second C is Creativity. The third C is Connecting, connecting the dots. With clarity, you want to know exactly who you are talking to. Who is your ideal client? I say that when working with business, but who is your ideal volunteer or donor? Who are they? What gets them excited? What are they passionate about? What keeps them up at night? You really want to know who you are talking to because that makes all the difference. When you write copy, you want it to be like when the person is reading it, they are like, “How did you get in my head?” That’s how you know you have done the right copy.
Another mistake that I talk about that I see happens a lot is people are too generic, too vanilla, whatever you want to call it because they want to talk to everybody. We don’t want to exclude everybody. I don’t want to just talk to moms and business owners; I want everybody to be my customer or to be a part of this. For some companies ,that might be true. But usually it’s not. Usually you want to hone in on who is the most powerful, impactful person to connect with your organization. That is who you are talking to. Naturally, you will pick out some other people outside of that. What happens when you are talking to everybody, you are talking to nobody. Nobody is so moved, wondering how you got in your head and are reading their mind or is so moved. You want to inspire people that way. You won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay. Being really clear about who that person is.
Being clear on why. What is your why? Why do you care so much about this? Nonprofit leaders especially. It’s grueling work trying to get up and running. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort. You don’t always see the results right away, so why would anyone want to do that? Because you want to better the world. You want to better humanity. Expressing that is super important.
Also being clear on why you. Why do you do it differently? Why are you the one to lead this movement, lead the charge? You want to express that, too. So being clear on what I call all the foundational pieces of messaging.
Once you have that clarity piece, then you can move to the creative piece. The creative piece is, “Okay, what stories can you tell?” Whether it’s your own personal story of why you started the nonprofit, whether it’s the stories of the lives you have affected, the before and the after, the person who was living on the street, worked with you, and now has a house and a job, whatever it is, that creativity. Compiling a list of stories.
Then connecting the dots. Putting it all together. What stories can I tell that make sense that connect with this audience and move this mission?
There is some finesse. I walk everyone through it. That’s really it. That’s how you simplify it. The biggest piece that people miss the mark on is the clarity piece. Who are you talking to? Why you? What do you do differently? If you can nail that part of it, the rest falls into place.
Russell: Dawn, if that was easy, everybody would be doing it. They need to have- I needed guidance for that type of stuff for myself in shaping my business, reshaping it. I am still doing some reshaping because there are things I need to do. A lot of times we don’t know what we don’t know. With nonprofit leaders, people look at several bottom lines. What are the outcomes that people are having, that ultimate impact? What are you spending? The majority of that work is not gonna fit neatly on an income statement. It just doesn’t.
Storytelling can become a big piece of how you measure what’s going on. The best people to have tell stories are the ones who are getting the services. I start it here, I was working with this foundation. After a couple of years, I am in this different place. That is really powerful. That movement, this is the thing you’re not going to get looking at a report. Real human beings. This work that Hugh mentioned that I did was with a Native American tribe. You get people that walk in and they might walk in for one thing. Having gotten to know the families, it’s almost like I know where all the bones are buried. There is not a number in front of me; there is a person who I have gotten to know personally. You understand that. That connection is powerful in making sure that your donors and other supporters understand that.
What’s important to them? Tell that story. I’m not everybody’s flavor. I know other people, and there are other people who are a better fit. This is where collaboration can be very important. in terms of collaborating or building collaborations, you probably run into people that you work with, who you told stories, and crossed your mind that, “These guys are doing the same thing that these other folks across town are doing. Maybe there is some synergy.” Have you found yourself in some situations like that? What things come to mind when you think of those types of situations?
Dawn: Oh yeah. I am big on collaboration. That is what they teach at the Business Acceleration Summit and where Hugh is right now at CEO Space. It’s all about collaboration. We are really moving as the human species away from the competitive model into the collaborative model. It’s one earth. It’s one human species. There is really no competition anyway. We are all here to cause something, whether you are in a for-profit business or running a social business, as Hugh calls it. We all have a reason, a purpose, a passion. You can always connect with other people to help bring that mission further, when you take the ego out of it. What’s best for humanity? What’s best for the bottom line? Whether you are a for-profit or a nonprofit, you have payroll, so you have to make sure it’s the best for the bottom line. We are better together. When the synergy is right, it’s good to collaborate. That happens all the time. I love connecting people. You need to meet so-and-so. It might be a great fit. I love to see projects take off from introductions like that. I love collaborating with others, too. I do storytelling, so I have partnerships with people who do visual branding. They do logos and websites and things of that nature, and I do the brand messaging. That’s a good fit. We pass clients to each other. But any nonprofit who Is listening to this, there might be potential in that. If you think outside of the box, instead of trying to do it all yourself, how can you collaborate and be better together and make both missions go further? It’s a great way to look at the world. Opportunities pop up when you ask for it. One of my daily prayers is, “Please guide me to the people, places, and things who will help me grow into my best self and help me be of service.” People just keep popping up in my world. Like Hugh and many other wonderful people. It’s beautiful.
Russell: I got myself mixed up with Hugh. Next thing, I’m all mixed up with Shannon. There is a cast of characters in there. Haven’t been the same since.
Dawn: Like attracts like. We are all in the same game.
Hugh: So intense, Russell. You gotta really count your blessings.
Russell: My blessings are coming at a rate of speed that I gotta get my calculator out.
Dawn: That’s a good problem to have.
Russell: When you drop the abacus and pick up the calculator, then you know you are moving in the right direction.
Dawn: You’re doing something right, yes.
Hugh: That’s too much for my age and mental condition, Russ.
Russell: You know what I have to say. Reminding people how long you have been around. Most of the people watching this broadcast probably won’t know-
Dawn: I know what an abacus is. They still use them at my daughter’s Montessori school. They have an abacus in her classroom.
Russell: There is a fantastic school. That is a wonderful model. In fact, I have a friend here who is looking at creating a Montessori school that is different than anything. The education system is another rant for another program.
Dawn: Montessori is a great model. Love it.
Hugh: There is a lot of themes that we have touched on here. We are coming into the last part of our interview. There is a place where people can step up their performance level here. It’s for a number of reasons. It’s not just for funding. You have already pointed that out. We want board members. We want volunteers. We want to get press for what we do. I mourn at the good amount of work that charities are doing and they are not publicizing it. Part of our job, Russell, is to help people create the space so they feel like they have time to do it and/or be able to delegate it out. That is the bottom line. Find somebody in the organization that manages publicity/PR/communications. Maybe we need a corporate storyteller inside of our organization.
Russell, we got another couple of questions before we round out this really interesting interview. What are you thinking? What do you want to ask her to share with us at this point?
Russell: Well, I think that it’s really powerful to tell stories. When you create a culture of storytelling, I’ll just ask Dawn if that makes any sense. How do you create a culture of storytelling so that you get other people talking about it? That is where the juice is. That is where the power is. This is what makes businesses want to get involved because your work is so good that other people are recommending you and telling stories. How do you create that kind of a culture so that people just step into it? “Oh, this is just how we roll.”
Dawn: Just a real simple answer that is actually super powerful. Just ask. I think sometimes we forget to just ask. Whether it’s for testimonials or share your experience, we just think, Well, if they wanted to share, they would. I don’t want to bother them. If they want to share, they’ll do it. That is not always the case. People have good hearts and good intentions, but they are busy. They have a lot of stuff going on. But if you express how much it means to you, “It would mean a lot to our organization. We helped you. We supported you. We helped you get from A to B. if you could just share a piece of your story, if you could put a testimonial on our website,” whatever it is, “that would mean so much. You doing that, we are going to be able to help so many other people.” That simple ask is really powerful. People will do it if you ask them. That’s the easy answer.
If you want to get a little fancier, you could build some sort of incentive around it. Contests. You can have people on Instagram post a picture or do hashtags and run contests where people have prizes and there are sponsors. You can get fancier with it and get buzz going that way. But the simple answer is to just ask. Tell people, “Hey, if you do this, just by you sharing your story, you will help 10 other people or 100 other people.” There is a lot of power in asking. Don’t dismiss that because it sounds too easy. It really is that easy.
Russell: Speaking of Instagram, now that you have brought it up… [holds up iPad]
Dawn: What is that?
Russell: I have shamelessly quoted you on Instagram. “Own your story or it will own you.”
Dawn: You’re quick. That was good. You have skills. He is creating memes while we are talking. What is your Instagram? I have to make sure I am following.
Dawn: Yes, sir?
Hugh: We are having some technical issues on my side. The Wi-Fi drops out every now and then. You’re saying to ask people. I find people need a template, some sort of format. We are writing our story, are there suggested- There is a piece of music. There is a form. You have your theme, your variations, come back to your theme. In a piece of art, you see the form. Is there a form piece for your story? You also ask for testimonies. Do you need to give people guidelines? We want them to talk about results. That is not normal for people to think that way.
Dawn: That’s a great question. This is what I do. I try to make it as easy as possible for people. Maybe they wrote an email praising our work together. Maybe inside a conversation, they said something to me, “Since working with you, I doubled my income.” When people say stuff like that to you, write it down, or ask on the spot, “Wow, that’s amazing. Do you mind if I use that as a testimonial? Say I’ll write it for you and send it to you, and all you have to do is approve it, and we will put it on the website,” or whatever it is. Maybe you can go back in your emails, and you might have stories from people for the last year or two years or six months. You can start pulling those out and follow up, “You shared this amazing story with us. Do you mind if we share it with our people? Do you mind sharing it publicly?” You can help them in that way.
If you are looking for a template, some simple questions to ask are, “What was life before we started working together? What were you suffering with? What were you struggling with?” “What was it like working together?” “What is life like now?” That is the simplest format. Before, during, after. Before we got together, my life was hopeless. I was living on the streets, blah, blah, blah. Now all my dreams are coming true. That simple template so people can see the before and the after, that’s as easy as it gets. If you can do the work for people, email it to them, get their approval. That is the easiest way.
Russell: That is popular with quotes for books as well.
Dawn: Make it easy for people. People want to help you, but sometimes you have to make it easy for them if you want to get the most help.
Hugh: Are you hearing me?
Hugh: We gotta let you have a last word in this interview. You have given us tons of perspective-changing, useful information on how to proceed. I want to ask you- BlissedCommunications.com is your website. We are going to let you have the last word and give people a final thought, a tip, a challenge.
Dawn, this has been really informative for me. Russell, I don’t know about you, but when I hear guests like this giving us best practices, I go back to myself and think about, Here is a place I need to upgrade. What about you?
Russell: It’s always about upgrading. It’s always about learning. I always have things I am talking to people. You have heard me say before, and I have been doing a lot more purposeful networking and getting mixed in with people in the city. I have met a lot of people over the last month. I am often fond of saying, When I am in a room and I look around, it occurs to me that if I’m the smartest guy in the room, I run like hell and find another room. There is just so much genius out there. Everybody is unique and have their own unique gifts. I can learn so much. The more that I learn, the more that I have to share. We circulate this. By obeying the law of circulation, we are giving and receiving, we are growing and expanding. That is really the way to go. Everybody’s done a story, but how do you tell it? Having somebody that can help you shape that story, that is your mojo. That is your mojo because you start telling it, you get good with it, and it just becomes like gold.
Dawn: Yeah. My final words and advice for people: stay visible. If you’re the best kept secret, all the heart in the world, people can’t help you. Get your message out there daily. Whether you use social media or email, or you could be saying to use snail mail, it is making a comeback. The emails get so clogged up. Writing blogs and articles, get yourself out there, do videos, podcasts. Be visible. Keep talking until you are tired of hearing your own voice. People will connect with your message.
If you want a challenge, a challenge would be one of two things. Share your personal story of why you started your nonprofit. What makes you mad in the world so much so that you had to start a nonprofit to solve this problem? Talk about that. Let your passion and emotion come out in that. People will connect with that.
Another idea is to tell the story of someone whose life you affected, the before and after, and what it’s like. Let the emotion flow. Share it with your people. They will love you for it. If you need help with all of that, you can definitely reach out to me, and I’d be happy to support you. I am Dawn Gluskin. I am the only one. Blissed Communications is my website. Let’s connect. Thank you.
Hugh: That’s a great invitation. Thank you for the value that you brought to our listeners. Thank you for being here today.
Dawn: My pleasure. Thank you, guys.
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