Building your group’s story to give supporters a place to belong

Sep 3, 2019
Building your group’s story to give supporters a place to belong

How can patient advocacy groups cut through the noise and make sure their message stands out from the crowd?

The team behind Storyforge, Barry Chandler and Haley Boehning, say it is about building a meaningful story your supporters and would-be followers can belong to and feel part of.

There have never been more ways to raise money. So many people are fundraising out there in your communities, your states and your networks that there is a lot of noise. But having a great cause just isn’t enough anymore.

All organizations, whether they are big or small, for profit or non-profit, are facing similar challenges.

But there are some that stand out from the crowd, and there’s one thing that connects them all — they offer people the opportunity to belong to something greater than themselves.

Five simple questions

The good news is there are five easy questions you can answer that will give you the formula for a meaningful story, irrespective of the patients you serve or the audience you’re seeking.

Before you start, remember that the “story” is bigger than just one person or department – it emanates from the entire organization.

1. What do you want the world to look like?

We think of this as your vision. What do you want the world to look like in five or 10 years? In what way will it be different because you exist?

One-third of the people who move to New York every year are from overseas. They don’t move there for the high rents or the tiny shoebox apartments. They move there because they share the vision that New York promises the future they want to create for themselves.

2. What’s your purpose?

Think about why you exist: what’s your why?

A great example is Patagonia. Its purpose isn’t to sell more clothes, it’s to save the planet. And it does that through its products.

3. How will we achieve our purpose?

Next, you need to think about how you will make your vision possible. What can you do better than anyone else that will make it happen?

Pelotonia is a grassroots organization in Columbus, Ohio, that has united the whole city around the vision of a world without cancer. The group’s purpose is to mobilize purpose-driven communities to that end through an annual bike ride, events and education, and by enabling people to belong to their story.

Over the past 10 years, it has raised $184 million, 100 percent of which has gone to support cancer research.

4. Who do we serve and what matters to them?

Who are your stakeholders and what do they need? This can be a challenge. Sometimes we’re too busy fighting fires in our organizations to take the time to understand the motivations and the challenges of our stakeholders.

But if we find out what keeps those we serve up at night, we might discover we have a better way of sharing our story that will help them see that they belong.

5. What are you for and what are you against?

You need to know what you stand for and what you stand against. And you need to share that. You will probably alienate some people because you are so strong in your beliefs, but that’s okay, because you want to attract people who believe what you believe. Because they belong.

It starts with our vision for the world, and when we know enough about the people we serve, we can share a story that resonates with them: a story that matters to them and that helps them see that they belong.


Haley Boehning, Co-Founder Storyforge: As a consultant with over 20 years’ experience working with Fortune-500 companies, non-profit organizations and start-ups, Haley helped her clients elevate their storytelling through relevant, consistent and emotionally compelling messages and targeted communications strategies. Clients included: The New Albany Community Foundation, The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, The Pizzuti Collection, Central Ohio Leadership Academy and Leadership Cadence.

Barry Chandler, Co-Founder Storyforge: Barry believes that the most successful businesses and the happiest people are driven by something bigger than products and services and more than money alone and that this purpose is the foundation of every great story. He specializes in business building, brand strategy, and storytelling. Since 2003 he has built 5 (and sold three) strategic consulting businesses and worked with more than 500 businesses from pre-revenue startups to publicly traded organizations to help them drive margins and identify a differentiated position and path to achieving their goals. In 2014, he co-founded Storyforge, a strategy company helping ambitious businesses grow by discovering their singular purpose, forging their story, and aligning their positioning, people, products and profits with it.



Building your group’s story to give supporters a place to belong

Astellas Patient Advocacy is a function within Corporate Affairs at Astellas that focuses on creating, building and maintaining third-party relationships. We serve as a conduit between Astellas and external stakeholders to help improve patient outcomes, improve access issues and address patients’ unmet needs head on.

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