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Great storytelling: Best practices for advancement
Storytelling is a key strategy for establishing and sustaining relationships with donors, current and prospective. The purpose of this paper is to explore connections to the century-long public library storytelling in the field of Library and Information Science (LIS) and identify best practices for advancement work. Analysis of 20 interviews with advancement professionals — part of a larger Storytelling at Work project of over 100 interviews — reveals advancement best practices related to library storytelling. Interviewees include advancement professionals at all stages of their career development, from new hires to seasoned leaders. Findings demonstrate that storytelling can inform every stage of the advancement process — including gathering narratives, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship — so that development officers become inspiring tellers of tales. This paper provides a framework to support new advancement professionals to be more strategic in their storytelling and, at the same time, provoke seasoned professionals to analyse how they weave storied relationships.
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Kate Mcdowell has taught graduate-level storytelling seminars to aspiring professionals for the last nine years. She has served as the storytelling consultant to campus-level Advancement at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for just over two years, and has also conducted storytelling workshops for the College of Business, College of Media and College of Fine and Applied Arts. She is Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. Her new research project, Storytelling at Work, involves interviews with professionals to understand how storytelling operates practically on a day-to-day basis in workplace environments.
Deborah Miller is Assistant Director of Clinical Partnerships at the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute at the University of Illinois. She previously focused her twodecade career in arts administration, development and advancement for organisations including Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a successful fundraiser and leader, Deborah managed development operations of over US$3.5m annually from individuals, corporations and foundations with storytelling weaved throughout. She has recently launched a consulting endeavour entitled Lesson 206: Stronger through Story to demonstrate how story is critical in both our professional and personal lives, with a focus on story for advancement work and overcoming health adversities. She has presented at numerous nonprofit conferences including CASE District 5 Conference and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Illinois chapter. She has a master’s degree from the University of Illinois in Library and Information Sciences.