Everyone loves stories. They take you to imagined worlds full of magic and fantastic beasts or through treasure hunts and life-defining adventures. Lessons on what being a hero means and how kindness moves mountains can be highlighted in unassuming but powerful paragraphs. The power of storytelling is ever-present in fundraising for nonprofit organizations.
Fostering connection and empathy
Donors give money and get involved because they can connect to your cause and feel inspired to make a difference through your work. Stories can help organizations showcase shared values that can allow individuals to unite in pursuit of a common goal, whether it’s strengthening healthcare initiatives or providing heating for Salt Lake City foster homes. It is imperative for nonprofits to create a story bank and accurately tell narratives of the people they’ve helped and the impact they’ve achieved.
The brain benefits from engaging character-driven stories. According to Harvard Business Review, storytelling results in oxytocin synthesis, which activates empathy, and it promotes understanding and better recall of the outlined points. Fundraising has compassion at its core, too, moving minds and hearts to share resources to people in need. Data and statistics should be complemented with an emotional context for it to be effective in spurring generosity and change. Here are some tips to tell better stories for nonprofits.
1. It’s not about your organization.
It’s tempting to boast about your organization’s long history of successful projects and star-studded board members in fundraising collaterals. However, one’s appeal will be more powerful if your story focuses on the donor. You are joining their narrative instead of pulling him into your organization’s story. The project is a means to help the donor achieve his giving goals and come out as essential support to the beneficiaries. Don’t make the donor an afterthought.
2. Leave the story unfinished.
Add a level of urgency and mystery to fundraising letters by leaving the story told unfinished. You will then ask the donor to complete it through a generous gift. It is like a choose your adventure where the donor is placed at the crossroads of either making a difference in someone else’s lives or not. This helps donors feel like their help is crucial to the mission.
3. Use conversational language.
Write like a storyteller and not like a CEO or a technical writer. While grammar and conventions of language should generally be observed, it shouldn’t stop you from using colloquial language and incomplete sentences if they can communicate your points across more effectively. Use of grandiose verbs and expressions might be good in a book, but it won’t help your organization raise money if they don’t understand what you mean.
4. Repeat and repeat and repeat.
Studies have shown repeating something fuses learnings and experiences into one’s awareness longer. The more you repeat your message, the more likely the donor is going to understand what you mean and take action. Some readers even skip around and don’t read the first word until the last word religiously. That is why you should say the message again about 3-4 times in slightly tweaked phrasings to capture their attention.
A compelling fundraising story not only informs readers about your initiatives but also inspires them to act for the benefit of the organization’s beneficiaries. Your appeals will be more effective if donors are treated as the main protagonist and the nonprofit as the sword to slay dragons or world problems instead of the other way around.