Tell a Compelling Story to Raise Awareness and Revenue

Is your nonprofit telling a compelling story?

The mission of Main Street is to enhance the economic prosperity and cultural vitality of historic downtown districts. To succeed, organization’s must be able to demonstrate real change on the ground with visible improvements AND specific metrics of success. To do this, use positive statistics such as jobs added, new businesses open, reduced storefront vacancies, and, an important one for local revenues, increase in property values.

Main Street Lexington has a great story to tell and the media is taking notice, spreading the word that downtown is “alive and thriving”.

“About 18 months ago, we had 14 or 15 [vacancies],” says Stephanie Wilkinson, Executive Director of Main Street Lexington. “Right now, we have about 2 or 4, depending on how you count.”

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Lexington “Get Downtown” 2016 Event

At a recent training in Lexington, the Virginia Main Street program managers discussed The Storytelling Nonprofit: A Practical Guide to Telling Stories That Raise Money and Awareness by Vanessa Chase Lockshin. Telling a story that can point to specifics will raise awareness, boost program credibility, and inspire advocates and funders to take on the role of hero.  However, finding the balance between reporting quantitative statistics and the qualitative community experience can be a challenge.

Lockshin says, “By telling stories, we can connect donors to the emotional experiences associated with the issues our organizations are trying to solve, and emotions are the gateway to deep, meaningful relationships with donors.”

The book is chock full of practical tips for identifying and inspiring your target audience. “Know your audience” is one of the leading tips for a compelling story.

Lockshin helped write a brief storytelling guide for Network for Good.  Check out this resource to get started >>

Local Entrepreneur Selected as Executive Director for Main Street Lexington

LexingtonThe board of directors recently selected Stephanie Wilkinson to serve as the executive director of the Main Street Lexington. As an entrepreneur, co-owner of a downtown Lexington business and community leader who helped spearhead the creation of Main Street Lexington, Wilkinson brings a wealth of experience to this critical role.

Wilkinson’s business experience, vision, strong leadership and demonstrated commitment to the vibrancy of downtown Lexington, as well as her natural abilities to cultivate collaborative partnerships throughout the downtown stakeholder community, were key factors in her selection for this role.

She is co-founder and co-owner of the Red Hen Restaurant and was the co-founder and publisher of Brain Child magazine, which she sold in 2012.  Wilkinson has extensive experience with local nonprofit organizations, including service as board president for the Montessori Center for Children, board treasurer and president for the Rockbridge Regional Library and board president for Main Street Lexington.

Downtown Lexington is one of my favorite places in the world. I feel fortunate every day to be living here. I also think we are on the cusp of great things. There is a new vitality downtown, new investment and a lot of energy.” — Stephanie Wilkinson, Executive Director, Main Street Lexington

Main Street Lexington is a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) organization established in 2013 to preserve, sustain, enhance and promote beautiful Downtown Lexington, Virginia.  As an affiliate member of the Virginia Main Street Program, Main Street Lexington uses a proven Four Point Approach to achieve economic revitalization in the context of historic preservation.

Among many other accomplishments during its first year, Main Street Lexington has filled empty storefronts with local artwork, created a Merchant’s Forum to engage local business owners in the exchange of ideas to promote downtown businesses, partnered with the local Chamber of Commerce to provide a series of business-improvement seminars to help downtown retailers stay strong and relevant in a changing environment, sponsored numerous downtown community-building events, launched a downtown clean-up day, revamped the downtown Gift Certificate Program, raised nearly $40,000 through donations, peanut sales and other fundraisers, and they been awarded 501(c)(3) status by the IRS.