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Learn to Be Human By Ryan Stillwater

The Stories that Reveal the Human Need

A few years ago, I was the new development director in a new town for a regional nonprofit organization, attempting to wrap my mind around a new area of human services: domestic violence.

We were preparing for our annual banquet, where I would present an overview of our mission. I chose to share a story about someone close to me who was a survivor of domestic violence.

Our executive director was a little unsure about sharing a story—after all, shouldn’t people know just how prevalent domestic violence is in our community? Won’t they be shocked and forever impacted by the stats she would be presenting? The possibility of the collective eyes of the room glazing over was unlikely.

At the end of the event, we sat together after all the attendees departed.

“It really is about the stories,” she confessed.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around millions of needy people, so we don’t. The research in “Psychic Numbing” has shown that the more people in need, the less we care.

With many organizations experiencing a normalization to pre-pandemic levels of giving, it’s more important to get back to the basics—not of fundraising, per se, but of human nature.

  • We’re busy but also compassionate.
  • Our checking account balance is low, but we know everything makes a difference.
  • We have enough on our plates, yet somehow, doing something selfless for someone else makes the plate bigger.

Many of you reading this have worked in your industry for a long time, but I bet you remember someone’s story from 10 years ago, not the annual report. I bet you remember someone’s face, their tears soaking your shirt.

Share those stories. Share how it made you feel.

And those reading your stories will respond. It’s human nature.




Ryan Stillwater is a Consultant for Client Services for Douglas Shaw & Associates. Before joining Douglas Shaw & Associates, Ryan served as Director of Development for nonprofit organizations in California and Oregon. Now residing in Middle Tennessee, Ryan enjoys exploring the great outdoors and tackling new home projects with his wife of 17 years, Amy, and their three children. 

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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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