As a fundraising professional, relationship building with donors is an ongoing process and communication is an important part of that process. Stories are a great communications tool that you can use to tell donors about their impact in a tangible and easy to understand manner.
Storytelling seems to be everywhere these days. Non-profits are actively trying to use stories to engage their current and new donors. Is your non-profit trying to tap into the power of stories? Perhaps it’s been a positive experience for your organization. But maybe you have faced some challenges.
One of the biggest challenges with storytelling is being able to tell a great story. A story that really stands out from the pack and resonates with your donor audience. A story that, ultimately, compels action.
Today I want to share with you 7 rules for telling a better non-profit story.
Rule #1: Know Your Audience
You want to know the most important detail you need in order to tell a great story? You must know your audience. Saying that your audience is “donors,” is far too broad. Take some time to do some digging and find out more details about about who your donors are. What are some of their demographic and psychographic details? Use these details to write a story that resonates with you audience.
Rule #2: Define a Goal
To write an effective story, it helps to start with the end in mind. Why are you telling this particular story? What action do you want people to take after reading it? It is helpful to know this information so that you can then structure the story so that you achieve this goal. For example if you are telling a story on social media, your goal might be get a certain number of shares or comments on your post.
Rule #3: Find Your Main Character
Every story needs a character. In non-profit stories, the character will be the person, place or thing that your organization has helped. Figure out who the specific character will be for your story. It is important to tell a story about one person or thing. This is what makes stories more effective than general communications because they are tangible examples of your organization’s work in action.
Rule #4: Engage from the Start
It is key to hook readers from the start of the story, and there are a couple of ways to do this. You can use a quote and put the reader right in the action. You could ask a question that gets the reader to think about a new perspective. You could make a bold statement. Use what you know about your audience to decide how to start the story.
Rule #5: Take the Donor on a Journey
When you tell a story you are taking your donor on a journey from thinking to feeling. We want our donors to move from their logical brain into their emotional brain. When they are using that part of their brain, they are more likely to empathize with the story. Before you start writing your story, think about the journey you are trying to facilitate and what emotions you want them to feel.
Rule #6: Be Donor Centered
A great approach to fundraising writing is to be donor centered. This means that you are talking directly to your donors and ensuring that they are included in the story. This is really key because when you are communicating with donors, you want to make sure that they understand 1) how their gift was use and 2) that they are appreciated. A story is a pretty natural way to communicate donor impact, but a common pitfall is not telling the story in a donor centered manner. Be sure to include a few sentences at the end of the story that tell donors who they can help or how they were/are a vital part of the story.
Rule 7: Include a Call to Action
Earlier we talked about setting a goal for our story, there is one important thing that you must do in order to make sure you reach that goal – you must include a call to action. This is especially true if you are telling a story for fundraising purposes. Consider including a call to action to donate or to share the story at the end.
The stories your non-profit tells have the ability to inspire donors to believe in new possibilities or a different vision for the future. I hope these 7 rules give you a new perspective on non-profit storytelling and show you how it can be used strategically in fundraising to inspire your donors.
Vanessa is the founder of her own consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. She is smart, no-nonsense and really, really nice. I am proud to call her my friend. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.
And let us know your own experience about telling stories that have inspired donors to give! We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net
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- Social Channels
- Support Constituencies
- Engagement Objectives
- Resources and Systems