The Importance of Storytelling to Successful Fundraising

Humans have a basic need to tell and hear stories. We have personal stories, folk lore and family tales we know from our childhood, but are told today. As we grow, we have our own stories about work, love, family. As a society, stories help us share our successes, challenges, what we learned, what to avoid and which restaurants are good! Stories help us connect with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

This is why storytelling is so important to nonprofit communication. Our donors, volunteers and prospects are accustom to hearing and telling stories from their personal experience. To successfully share our work and mission, we need to learn how to tell stories, not only effectively, but stories that connect with each of our constituencies. A compelling story is our case for support. I believe it is important to be sure the case also talks to the interests of the reader.

One of the best ways to share stories is from the point of view of one of your program participants. How has your program impacted their life? What would happen to them if the program ceased to exist? What was their life like before and after coming to your organization? While you can help draft this story, it should be in the voice of a program participant. Alternatively, you can write a story based on the experiences of your program participants. Again, write it in their voice and let readers know this is reflective your work and their experience. Remember to tell a story. No just state facts, figures and rates.

Another opportunity is to collect quotes from your constituents. Collect these through surveys, talk to them, ask for quotes and use them on your website, in newsletters, annual reports and for social media. These are snippets of stories and experiences of people who are a part of your work.

The “day in the life” story is a great opportunity to bring constituents into programs and administration. Many don’t know what it takes to fill the pantry at a food bank, recruit and train volunteers for street outreach, what it takes to answer a hot line. Stories of those who provide support as well as those who receive it are compelling.

Don’t forget photo-stories and video. Pictures talk! They allow the viewer to interpret on their own. A story with great photos and captions can engage the reader deeply. Be sure you pictures include faces and eyes looking into the camera. This has shown to draw readers into the story and raise their level of interest. Video is the new medium and any nonprofit can use a flip video to tell their story. Interview program staff and participants, donors, volunteers and let them share their experience in their own words. These can be uploaded to your YouTube channel, onto your website, shared on your blog or via email.

With all the new technology, we have the ability to segment lists and constituents to be sure we are sharing stories important to them. We can ask via survey and in person. Why is the person interested, involved and invested in your organization? Once we have this information we can write stories that engage them according to their interests.

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