The Power of Storytelling in Philanthropy

staff person adding nonperishable food to Blessings Box

During the pandemic, Jen Fuller-Allen, CEO of the J. Smith Young YMCA in Lexington, began sending an email each Friday to her Board of Directors. “I wanted to connect with our Board more regularly to share highlights from the week to better equip them to help tell our story,” Fuller-Allen said. “And I enjoy writing those emails to share how we have made a difference each week.”

Storytelling is key to sharing the Y’s impact and to fundraising. Recently, Fuller-Allen shared in her Friday email that the Y had received a $10,000 grant from No Kid Hungry to help the Y support the growing homeless children population in Lexington. 

About a week after Fuller-Allen shared this good news with her Board, she learned that her message had been shared in the community, and a private donor came forward with a matching $10,000 grant. Thanks to the grant and generous match, the Y has enough funding to run its new Swim and Snacks program for homeless children and stock the Y’s Blessings Box until December, Fuller-Allen said. 

The grant will enable the Y to serve 24 homeless children from the shelter two days a week for six weeks starting this week, provide swim lessons and a mini summer camp experience with bowling and play time. Plus, the Y will feed the kids lunch and provide a meal they can take back to the shelter, and the funds will help the Y keep its Blessings Box of non-perishable foods stocked. The Y plans to run the program year-round, serving a new set of children each six-week period, and will incorporate this work into its case for annual giving.

“The shelter houses 88 adults and 24 kids, and it’s full,” Fuller-Allen said. Last year, the shelter served 20,000 people. “We try to be problem-solvers because so many people come to the Y and need a resource. We try to get to know them and connect them to services they need. That might mean taking them to the Department of Social Services or going to the shelter with them to find housing. They don’t always have a person in their corner or don’t feel like they have anyone they can trust in their lives. We are trying to help with one step toward independence where we can,” she continued. “Even if we make a difference for one person in a week, that’s time well spent.”

With the grant and matching funds, the Y is able to make a difference for those who need us and to provide a safe place to be with other children. “I am amazed by our community’s support and appreciate that our board shared our story so that we could grow our impact,” Fuller-Allen said. (6/15/22)