Do Something

Advocacy 101: Living Your Story

by: Living Water International
April 19, 2015

Advocacy 101 is a guest series written by some of our most innovative fundraisers! Today’s post was written by photographer Andy Stenz in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2012 he walked across his state to raise awareness for the thirsty and raised $25,000 for water projects along the way! In this three-part series he shares his tips to finding—and living out—the exciting story God has for your life, and serving the thirsty through it. The photography featured here is some of Andy's original work in Guatemala where he helped build a well for the people of Cajola.

I've talked with you about finding your story, about sharing that story, and now I want to touch briefly on living that story—offering practical tips to help make your adventure a success.

Shake off the negativity. There will be multiple areas of negativity that might get in your way of significantly serving the thirsty. The first type is internal. If you're like me, doubt about what you're doing makes you question everything. You might think that you're not smart enough, not strong enough, not _________ enough (fill in the blank of what your subconscious tells you at night).

It's not true. This is where having a group of people around who believe in your story and your adventure helps. Be open and honest with them. Let them see you cry, be angry, be scared. I had many people who saw me broken and hurting many times and they kept me going.

The other negativity you’ll face is external. I had people online, and even people in my own church, who seemed almost mad that I was doing my walk. They questioned why I would spend so much time and effort to help people somewhere else in the world when there are people in need in our city.

We could just say, "haters gonna hate," and there is some truth to that. But a more constructive way to deal with them is to invite them to do something to serve that population in need. Turn it around (in a loving way) and invite them to their own adventure. Explain your story and invite them to find their own. And after that, you just have to find ways to ignore it. Don't get bogged down by it. 

Leverage local media attention. If your adventure is big enough, you probably want to get the local media involved. I was able to get some coverage before, during and after my Walk for Clean Water. Sometimes you have to be persistent, but it's worth it to try to increase the reach of your story.

All of the local stations have social media channels you can contact. I was able to reach a few and they wrote back. But don't be discouraged if they don't cover you. You never know what else is going on in the news cycle.

Leverage your social networks. The trick with social media is to not wear out your welcome on someone's feed. If you start posting ONLY about your adventure and ALWAYS about it, people will start blocking it out. Launch a page or account dedicated to your adventure. For example, I had twitter and facebook pages for my walk. Then I would only share select few of these accounts’ posts on my personal wall.

Show gratitude. Find ways to say thank you to your supporters—handwritten thank-you notes, little gifts, photos of the adventure, or special shout-outs. Let them know you really appreciate them and their support.

Remember, you've already won. This isn't a competition. It doesn't matter what you raise, relative to someone else’s goal, whether $500 or $5,000. Your story is your story. If you're out there living it well, you've already won. And more importantly, so have the people whose lives will be changed.

Let us know how your story is shaping up! Share it in the comments below or tweet @andystenz and @livingwater!