Stories are a most powerful way to present your charity

Stories are the raw truth, after everything else is stripped away, says Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards
Martin Edwards

Never underestimate the power of a story when describing your charity. This became clear to me when another charity's head and I were presenting our causes to a group of wealthy people at the launch of a joint fundraising initiative.

Beneath the smiles, there was a palpable sense that each fundraising team was rooting for its own man. The other head chose to go first. To be seen, he stood precariously on an antique sofa at the back of the long room. He gave a talk and played a film about the charity featuring a long introduction by its chairman.

When finally it was my turn, the audience was getting restless. Being tall, I knew that people could see me easily, so I walked forward and stood among them at the front. Straight away I said: "Three years ago, when my wife was pregnant, she met another mum-to-be in the town where we live, not far from here. They talked about their due dates and arranged to meet up afterwards.

"When my wife went into labour, I rushed her to hospital. All went well and we were blessed with a healthy baby boy. When the other lady went into labour, her husband rushed her to the same hospital. Their baby was healthy until 10 minutes before she was born, but complications in those last frantic moments meant their daughter, who I'll call Zoe, was born blind, brain damaged and paralysed."

I related how, back at home, Zoe vomited every feed and screamed in pain for 18 hours a day, and how her parents went from exhaustion to despair to breaking point.

I then described how we provided skilled people to help care for Zoe at home, giving her parents vital respite. I ended by quoting her dad telling me: "When nobody else cared - or at least not enough to help - Julia's House was there. We were drowning and you rescued us."

The room had gone quiet. This heartfelt story had spoken to them. Many of those who heard it then still support us years later, and we still help this lovely, smiley girl.

Tears of rage

In a similar vein, I recently read the haunting story of 'girl 146' from the anti-child trafficking and exploitation charity Love146, which was named after her and of which I am an associate director.

The charity's founders describe how they went undercover to a brothel in south-east Asia, where enslaved little girls were displayed with numbers round their necks for vile predators to hire for sex. Every child, raped several times a night, had a glazed, defeated expression - apart from girl number 146, who glared back at the men with fire in her eyes.

Did they rescue her? Go to their website and find out. You will be moved to tears of rage.

Having read it, I had to help. That's the thing about stories. They are the raw truth, after everything else is stripped away.

Martin Edwards is chief executive of the children's hospice Julia's House and associate director of Love146

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