In November, I attended my 17th consecutive AFP Congress. As always, it was a busy time – full of conversations, learnings and exposure to new ideas.

But, my big Congress take-away came from (of all people) my family doctor.

The day after I got home from Congress, I had a quick routine visit with my doctor. He asked me if I’d been travelling – and I told him about the conference. We chatted a bit about my work – and the wide variety of charities and causes I had experience with. He told me of his charitable interests – which include medicine (no-brainer) and international development (he’s originally from South Africa).

At one point, I shared with him how we at Good Works focus on real human connections built by storytelling. That’s when he told me his Movember story.

Dr. Stecher told me that he had all sorts of friends and colleagues who were growing moustaches in November in support of prostate cancer. He was inundated with requests to sponsor those men in their little campaigns to raise funds.

He said he didn’t give to any of those men until he got an email from another doctor he knew. This doctor told the story of losing his dad to prostate cancer. He talked about how his dad’s life had ended too soon – and how terribly he missed his father. He was growing his moustache in the hope that he could help prevent someone else like himself from losing his dad.

This pushed the right button in Dr. Stecher. He thought of his own dad. He thought about how lucky he was to still have his father in his life – and how lucky his three girls were to have a granddad who loved them so much.

Dr. Stecher made his donation to this man.

As I was driving home from my appointment, I thought about what he’d told me – and about my experience at Congress.

I ended up with one conclusion.

All the technology, technique and tactical expertise in the world is no substitute for a real, compelling human story – told from one person to another. To me, the formula for success is simple: Find the right story to tell – and then decide how you want to tell it. Whether it’s face-to-face, in direct mail or on your web site, it’s great stories that will get (and keep) the donor’s attention. And, it’s a great story that will spark the impulse to give.

So my advice, for what it’s worth, is to look around and come up with five or six story ideas between now and Christmas. Then find the best way to tell those stories with passion as you head into the New Year. I promise you, your time will be well spent – and you’ll find your work more meaningful and fulfilling.

This blog post is part of Good Works’ 2012 AFP Congress Round-Up series.  Don’t miss it as five members of our team share insights gleaned and lessons learned from this annual fundraising event.