Show and Tell

April 17, 2017



Written By: Jim Mellor

By Jim Mellor

There are some words that can bring fear in the most seasoned nonprofit leader. “Don’t forget your interview is this morning!” may be some of those words, bringing back memories of our first “show and tell” in kindergarten.

Recently Delta Airline’s SKY Magazine featured an interview with Gail McGovern, the CEO of the American Red Cross. The way McGovern skillfully told the story of the Red Cross, showed its impact and tied it all together is a masterful lesson on how to do “show and tell” as a nonprofit organization. Here is how they did it.


What is the “big picture” of your organization?

This is a sentence or two to quickly convey who your organization is and what you do, otherwise known as the “elevator speech.”

How they did it: The American Red Cross responds to disasters in peoples’ lives.


What is the impact of the organization?

Lift up a key impact statistic or two that you can use consistently to illustrate your mission and show the difference you are making.

How they did it: There are 64,000 disasters that impact Americans every year from house fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, to supporting the military service members who may have to return home for family emergencies.


What is your history?

While your founding story may not be particularly glamorous, your organization sprang from a particular time in history and social circumstance. Use that to illustrate what has changed and what remains since your founding.

How they did it:  During the Civil War, the American Red Cross assisted wounded soldiers of both sides. “Today our founder Clara Barton would be most surprised with the use of technology in the work of the American Red Cross.”


Why do you need support?

Illustrate the critical need for donations and community support for your mission, at all levels and over time.

How they did it: Gail shared stories of donors ranging from a 7-year old boy who donated his “tooth fairy” money to help during a crisis in Haiti to a major corporate sponsor.


What is your personal involvement?

There is nothing more powerful than a “join me” message. Seeing a professional nonprofit leader also work as a volunteer for the organization sends a powerful message as well.

How they did it: Gail shared the story of volunteering during a Michigan forest fire, seeing firsthand the devastation and crushing impact on peoples’ lives. In the eyes of these victims, she was not the CEO, but someone who offered comfort in a time of great need.


The next time you are interviewed, put some thought into how you would answer these five questions for your organization. What are the statistics, stories and call to action that you would most like to share?

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