It’s hard to believe that the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference was just two weeks ago, because it kind of feels like two months. (I say that tongue in cheek, because the fall is such a busy time in this sector.)

The truth is, the conference experience still lives on in my head and my heart. I’ll tell you more about the latter in a minute.

I’d been wanting to attend this conference for a few years. After a failed attempt in 2015, there was no way I was missing out again this year. For one, I’ve been following the Nonprofit Storytelling gang for the last couple of years, so I knew the content would be just what I was hoping for. And the idea of spending two and half days completely submerged in storytelling wisdom was inspiring. Full disclosure: this year’s conference was in San Diego….in November (one of my least favourite months). Plus, my 21-year-old daughter joined me for the week, so we made a mini-vacation out of it.

The conference circuit is nothing new to me, but this conference did not disappoint. Attendees received lots of helpful tips including what to wear, what to bring, food recommendations (including the nearest Starbucks!), and a reminder that the Sun, Surf and Storytelling crew of Beth Ann Locke, Chris Davenport, Marc Pittman, Shanon Doolittle and Stephanie Davenport, would be around if anyone had any questions during the conference (and they were).

In part 2 of my post, I’ll share my 3 key takeaways. But today, I want to go back to my heart moment. I want to share a story.

This is an experience I had during the conference, but not as part of the conference. An unanticipated outcome if you will.

The conference offered an app called Whova (if you haven’t heard of it, you can check it out here). The app made it possible to identify the sessions I wanted to attend and request information. But most importantly, it allowed attendees the opportunity to engage and connect in various ways. I decided to create a group for consultants and asked if anyone was interested in meeting up for lunch.

The first day, we were 3 consultants and we had a great conversation over lunch about the work each of us was doing. The second day, we had a group of 7 consultants, each at different stages of our careers. Some of us worked for agencies, some worked for themselves, and a couple were mulling over the decision to take a leap of faith and strike out on their own.

A Year of Giving

We started by going around the table and introducing ourselves – what we do, where we’re located, and anything we hoped to chat about over lunch. All of the folks around the table were doing great work, but one person stood out for me. Reed Sandridge works with Story Distillery out of Washington, DC, but what he talked most about was his one-year project called ‘A Year of Giving’ and his startup company, Second Story Cards.

Reed talked about how the company helps harness the creativity of homeless men and women to help change the stigma surrounding homelessness. Then Reed told us a couple of stories about some of the men he’s been working with. I was completely taken. I asked Reed what the impetus was behind his decision to start the company. He told us through teary eyes that he’d lost his mom a few years earlier and that all he had left were some beautifully penned letters. He felt there was power behind the written word and that Second Story Cards makes it possible for people to write a second story. Amazing.

Reed inspired all of us through his story. The story of losing his job. Starting the Year of Giving project. His work with homeless men and women in Washington, DC. And how love for and memories of his mom helped fuel a new beginning. A second story.

That is the power of storytelling.

This post was written by Heather Brown, former Philanthropic Counsel at Good Works and fundraiser extraordinaire.