For Impact


The Little Engine that Could Syndrome

For Impact Ideas | | Nick Fellers

You all know the story of the Little Engine that Could. Great little engine that pulled the big train chanting, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” It’s about the little guy overcoming odds with attitude and proving something for himself.

It’s great. But it’s not YOUR organization’s story.

The Little Engine Story Sydrome for nonprofits looks something like this:

We’re really tiny but we don’t give up. We make good use of everything. We’re struggling but we’re going to make it. We believe we can. We believe we’re doing good work! Can you support us?


Represent a better story. The Little Engine That Could story is a narrative about confidence. We want a narrative about purpose. No time for you to tell us you can give yourself a pep talk… with all due respect to the little engine, we’re not pulling a train, we’re saving lives, changing lives and impacting lives.

Channel Ghandi. Inspire like MLK. Heck, charge forward like Braveheart. They were driven by a sense of purpose, not self-discovery.