How to Draft Your Origin Story

Campaign Startup
April 21, 2017

So, you’ve decided to fight for a cause.

Congratulations! Changing the world isn’t easy, ask any Superhero. While Batman can take a bullet and has the coolest gadgets, it comes at an immense cost to his personal life and, very likely, a good night’s sleep. But it is that sacrifice that makes him a hero.

Staying up late to get things done, putting others’ needs before your own, leaving the world in a better place than you found it. Does that sound like you? 

As you embark on your journey – whether it is starting a non-profit, raising money for a cause, or even running for office – there are a few things to help get you started.

 

1. Why are you starting this journey?

Take a few moments to write down your guiding values and reasons why you are starting this journey. Is this like a college admissions personal statement or something less formal?

Some call this document a personal statement, but we don’t believe it should be that formal. It’s more of a rough document that will help share your vision, develop communications and branding materials, and serve as a reference point to keep your values straight and morale up for when things get tough.

The idea is to put your passion on paper in whatever form it takes shape. Don’t worry about this being a public document or who the audience is, at least not yet. This exercise is only for you and those who are helping you start this journey.

In the end, this document should be a short, half to two-page narrative that you are willing to share with those closest to you. It will help create your messaging and get people on board, but it will not be a document you need to put up online or send in a fundraising letter, at least not yet. This is only something on paper to get you started.

Ideas to get you thinking…

Is there a story from your past that shaped who you have become and why you are embarking on this mission? Peter Parker’s experience getting picked on as a scrawny teen inspired his compassion for others. Tony Starks’ kidnapping by terrorists set him on a mission to bring about peace. What is your story?

It is also important to remember that while this document is about you, and your passion is what is driving this mission, successful non-profits and campaigns are always about someone else.

Campaigns are about your voters’ hopes, fears, wishes, and dreams. Non-profits are about the community in which they serve.

How will your mission make others’ lives better?

How does your story relate to the day-to-day life circumstances of those you are trying to help?

Take a few minutes and think through how these individuals would write their origin story and how it might relate to yours. Tie your stories into theirs. This is how you can accomplish your mission and grow your organization.

 

2. Feedback

Now that you’ve got a personal statement, it’s time to shop it around. Get feedback from a few close friends. Ask for advice and have others highlight parts that moved them or made them want to get engaged in your effort. From these conversations, you can start to distill your mission and vision statement, write a speech, create an initial message, and even draft your first fundraising letter.

Over time, check back in with the very first personal statement you wrote. It’s a keepsake, a time capsule to remind you who you were when you began and a reference point to see how far you’ve come.

 

3. Need help?

Willing to share your personal statement? Post it here! Want feedback or need help? Our friends at Blueprint Public Affairs are happy to review it and give you some feedback. Just send them an email. You can try to turn on your bat signal, but in all fairness, they may or may not see it. Email is best.

Matt Lyon
Matt’s experience includes overseeing up to fourteen staff members, administering budgets exceeding $1.1 million annually, directing million dollar paid media programs, raising over $5 million for various causes and organizations, and developing and implementing communications strategies that led to dozens of stories in local and national outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

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