How to Incorporate Storytelling in Fundraising

Jan 8, 2019Leadership

Storytelling-must-be-incorporated-in-fundraising-for-success Leadership

Her eyes filled with tears as the cameraman paused to comfort her with his words. She was trying to regain her composure so she could answer the questions.

I remember watching as students who had received life-altering scholarships were interviewed. They had gone on to make good with an investment provided by strangers. The recipients had not thought about the donors’ investment until they were asked to comment on what the gift meant to them. They felt gratitude and wanted to express their feelings. It was important for our nonprofit to capture their stories of appreciation on camera.

As nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, we have to capture and tell stories that help supporters understand the impact of their dollars.

What is your organization's niche in the community, region, or world? What value do you bring? Help the community understand who you are, what you do, and what contribution your nonprofit makes to your community.

Share your value with a story.

Share what would happen if your organization did not exist.

Nonprofit organizations meet needs and solve problems. Share the impact.

Here are tips to help you craft your organization's stories:

1.   Know what you do well.

2.   State the problem that is being solved.

3.   Identify a real person to write or tell about.

4.   Tell the story from the donor’s perspective, not the organization’s view.

5.   Make your supporters the heroes in your story. The organization is NOT the hero. The organization is the conduit that makes things happen. The donor is solving the problem. State the problem you are able to solve  — because of you, hot meals are provided to 323 women and children in 2018.

6.   Say YOU a lot! I mean a lot. Try hard to avoid using “I” or “we” in your story.

7.   Consultant, Steven Screen, always says, “The best stories are the incomplete stories.” You want the donor to see themselves as helping solve the problem. They have a role to play. We make the mistake of listing all of our accomplishments and not allowing the donor to help solve the problem. Let the donor help solve the problem with a gift.

8.   Be conversational in writing or telling your story. This is not a speech or formal report.  

9.   You are not trying to convince or twist anyone’s arm. You are giving people who feel passionate about a cause an opportunity to make a difference.

10. Clearly state what you want the donor to do. Your call to action is “give $100, $1,000 or $10,000.” Say or state it at least three times. Make the giving process simple. Make sure links work and pledge cards are clear.  Use simple language.

11. Know that you are not going to offend someone because you asked them for money.

12. Be persistent! “No” means not now.

Using storytelling in your fundraising will change the way you engage with your donors. Stop talking about what your organization did. Tell about what wonderful things your donors are doing to make a difference.

Question: Do you have a favorite story that seems to yield positive fundraising results?

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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