When the Sodexho Foundation, the charitable arm of Sodexho Inc., sought to boost employee participation in payroll contributions last year, it turned to storytelling. The foundation included an insert with paychecks that included the stories of beneficiaries of the foundation’s programs as a call to action.
One such story was Toni’s: “Being a single mom of six children makes it very hard for me to live out my own dreams. After graduating from the Sodexho Foundation-sponsored Community Kitchen, I am now able to fulfill a long-overdue wish to start a career in the culinary field. Now that I am a supervisor cook for Sodexho, I am able to provide leadership and service in the company and in my community. It is very empowering!”
Using stories like Toni’s in the annual payroll drive was new, and the results were dramatic: an impressive 100 percent jump in participation and a 116 percent increase in annualized contributions over a similar, non-story-based campaign two years earlier.
“A story-based appeal made all the difference,” says Shondra Jenkins, a community relations manager who ran the campaign. “The personal stories moved employees to action.” Toni’s story was also featured earlier in the year at the foundation’s annual fundraising dinner, which honors Sodexho’s “Heroes of Everyday Life,” as well as in the company’s magazine.
Perhaps you are one of the many communication professionals who, like Sodexho’s, are already using stories. Maybe you would like to do more with stories. Or maybe time or other obstacles prevent you from fully leveraging stories as one of the most effective tools in your communication toolbox. You’re not alone. Respondents to an IABC survey on storytelling paint a positive but challenging picture of working with stories.