personal and professional in business

Sharing Your Personal Story in Your Professional Life

By Communications

My college graduation, with my husband and son.

At an event for a nonprofit I support the other night, I found myself sharing the personal story of my modest beginnings to a couple of acquaintances. I stopped, surprised at the level of information I was sharing and apologized for “vomiting my life story” all over them. (Thanks, Elizabeth and Eric for humoring me.) They protested and said it was interesting (so polite, those two!) but it got me to thinking. . .

Later in the program, up on a big screen, the donors to the nonprofit were featured. At all the nonprofit events I attend, there’s always recognition for contributors and I am always curious about the story behind why those individuals give. I want to know a) where their money came from, especially if it’s the kind of wealth one sees in Charlottesville) and b) what their personal connection is to the charity in question. Although improbable, wouldn’t it be fun to see a list of donors with, in parentheses behind each name there were answers to a and b?

So, for example, some donors names would have (Inheritance) behind it, or (Married it) or (Divorce settlement), or (Lawsuit). Perhaps (Whiskey) or (Plastics) if it’s old, family money. Even better are the ones whose names would be followed by (Earned it) and those are the stories I like the best.

The reasons people connect with charities are equally interesting to me (perhaps less amusing and gossipy than the money origins). I’m personally interested in education, health care (especially diabetes), social justice, care for the homeless and those living in poverty — all connected to struggles in my own background and the leg up I know can be so valuable for people trying to make their lives better. I devote my time, dollars and talent to nonprofits that serve the populations I want to support, and I’ll bet you do, too.

Do you share your personal story? Do you think it has value in business?