Donors are always a bit nervous about their investment in your nonprofit. More than anything, they want to know what their hard-earned money is accomplishing!
THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN!
If you want more gifts, you must give them.
And in this article we’ll look at why stories can be the perfect donor gift!
For a lot of nonprofit insiders, this is a paradigm shift. Think about it. I’m asking you to go from focusing on asking to focusing on giving.
Another way to consider this is to shift from focusing on selling to focusing on helping.
When You View the World through a “Communications/Helping Lens” You Naturally Resonate with People
Supporters truly yearn to know what their gift accomplished.
All you have to do is show them!
But you’ve got to get serious, and strategic, about this.
You must not only demonstrate specifically how your donor’s philanthropy was used. You must do so in a manner that will capture their attention. A manner that puts them, not your nonprofit, at the center.
And not just once, but multiple times in order to reinforce for the donor that s/he made a good decision.
Who doesn’t like to know they’re constantly in your thoughts?
Use your initial thank you letter, of course. But don’t stop there. Use your blog or e-news. Place stories on your website. Send photos and videos on social media. Give folks lots and lots of gifts to open up and enjoy.
Got it? Your job is to give gifts to keep your donors happy.
And donor-centered content is a “gift.”
EXAMPLES of donor-centered content/gifts:
- Here’s a photo showing what you accomplished. Seeing is believing.
- Here are some tips we gave the Moms you helped; thought we’d share with you “8 Ways to Childproof Your Home.” Perhaps this will help someone you know.
- Here’s a “how-to” video your gift made possible: “7 Ways to Save the Environment.” Perhaps this will be something you can teach your children.
- Here’s an invitation to join us for a tour. We’d love to show you a good time.
- Here are recommended resources for helping seniors age in place. Perhaps you can use this.
- Here’s a story about how your gift helped. Please sit back and enjoy
Notice how different this content is than “Your gift helped, but the need is still great. More help is needed.”
When You View the World through a “Fundraising/Sales Lens” Your Donor Communications are the Opposite of Donor-Centered
Don’t make every communication about money.
Or about single transactions, rather than relationship-building opportunities to develop happy, loyal, passionate supporters.
Too often nonprofit communications focus on what the donor stands to lose (their own money) vs. what they stand to gain (miraculous outcomes).
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman is famous for loss aversion experiments showing how much people’s economic behavior is guided by a change of reference point. We hate losing things more than we like gaining them.
And using a “fundraising lens” can come across as greedy (taking) rather than grateful (giving). It doesn’t make donors feel happy.
When you view the world through a “communications lens” you channel philanthropy. Literally, you channel “love of humankind.”
You want to offer up communications donors will love so much they’ll return the favor!
Let’s Talk about Storytelling
Stories are without a doubt one of the most appreciated forms of donor-centered content.
We’re wired that way. They are the earliest and most resonant form of human communication.Storytelling is something people naturally gravitate to.
And they are easily infused with “love of humankind” – emotion, pathos, empathy, sadness, anger, hope, joy and the whole panoply of emotions that resonate with human beings.
I know you’ve been hearing a lot about storytelling. It’s one of the memes du jour. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Memes are memes for a purpose. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that storytelling is your most essential content marketing technique.
If you want to get noticed and make a difference in our digitally revolutionized society, where word-of-mouth, social sharing and social media shape your brand’s perception, you’ve got to capture folks’ imagination.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
— Albert Einstein
Stories are a Gift of Donor-Centered Content
Should you have any doubt that stories are a desirable gift, you’ll want to know about a study reported on by Lifehacker and The New York Times. They found when someone is reading a story the language center of their brain lights up. What’s especially interesting is that other parts of the brain also become active, including the pleasure center and the areas that would light up if the reader were experiencing the event firsthand. WoW!
If you’re a nonprofit that’s been stymied because you don’t have much that is show-and-tell worthy, take heart! You’ve got stories that will accomplish the same objective.
In fact, you can keep your constituents enthralled for days, weeks, months and all year long by dripping stories continually throughout the year. Have your clients… staff… donors… volunteers… all tell the story from their personal perspectives. In this manner, you create a collective experience – everyone’s a part of it!
Note how different this is from the traditional type of e-news or blog article. I know you’ve written one of these. They tend to be educational or informational. You think you’re doing a good thing by describing your program, or letting folks know you just hired a new staffer, or that you just redesigned your website, but you’re really just boasting at best; lecturing at worst.
People don’t want to be educated. They want to be inspired.
Stories Attract; Data Distracts
People long to be transported to a place outside their everyday experience.
That’s why people read books. It’s why little kids ask for a bedtime story. Human beings are wired to enter into stories. They long to become a part of them. To be taken along for the ride. It makes them feel good.
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
— J.K. Rowling
The opposite is true when it comes to facts and figures. With data, we naturally put up our dukes to try to refute the information. Fill your content marketing with facts and numbers and you’ll stop your readers dead in their tracks. It makes them feel combative.
“Facts and figures and all the rational things that we think are important in the business world actually don’t stick in our minds at all.”
— Nick Morgan, author, Power Cues
Share Stories, and You’ll Grab Folks’ Attention
In our information-saturated age, you need something to cut through the clutter.
Stories do that! Wonder what some of the best ways are to make stories work for you?
Let’s take a look…
First, you’ll want to understand the 5-step perfect story structure.
Just take a look at Successful Storytelling: 5 Foolproof Ways to Raise Money where I offer you five keys to telling a memorable, actionable story. In a nutshell, they are:
- Conflict escalation
Master storyteller and copywriter Harvey McKinnon puts it this way:
“A good story has to have a number of qualities. First, it has to have emotion. Secondly, it needs to be real – we need to have something tangible happen. Stories have to come from a credible source – a mother talking about her child, someone who was homeless and who now has somewhere to live. Both of these scenarios are credible and understandable. Lastly, the notion that illustrates how the charity’s intervention makes the difference, thanks to a donor’s gift.”
Once you’ve mastered the basic storytelling structure, you’re ready to take that story, run with it, and make it work for you.
And don’t forget – your goal is to inspire people to want to become more involved and invested with you! That’s what ‘making it work’ means in the context of nonprofit storytelling. You don’t want your stories dropping like lead balloons. You want your stories to be inspiring next steps – even if it’s just your readers looking forward to the next installment of the story. For now.
Honestly, if your marketing strategy were to become all stories, all the time, you wouldn’t go wrong.
Share Inspiring Stories Everywhere
Share stories frequently.
Through your newsletter, blog, social media, email, website — you name it!
As business and thought leader Jim Collins taught us:
“We are known by the stories we can tell.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
It’s true. The more you tell and share your stories, the more you will be known.
Make it easy for your fans, advocates and influencers to share your stories with their networks.
Consider the fact your constituents want to also be known by the stories they tell.
People share that about which they are passionate. And that about which they are proud.
Your job is to make sure you use language that gives donors ownership of all that’s being accomplished.
“You did this!”
Your goal is to make your readers proud to be the hero of the story. So they’ll share. Sharing helps to spread your mission beyond your existing constituencies and it helps those who do the sharing to become more engaged in what you do.
So include share buttons in emails, blog posts, e-newsletters and on your website. And don’t forget to share links in your email signature – a vastly underutilized piece of nonprofit real estate.
Sharing lays the ground for new gifts and bigger gifts.
Infuse All Your Content with Story Moments
Sometimes the topic of storytelling can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be.
You can study resources about storytelling if you want to get started in a big way. Or you can simply read a few articles like this one and dive in.
I recommend diving in.
After all, you’ve been telling stories all your life, haven’t you?
Doesn’t something happen to you just about daily that you then turn around and recount to your friends and family in the form of a mini-story?
Try to get into the habit of recognizing the stories in your daily work.
Stories can be eensy-teensy.
- Like starting an appeal letter with “Jimmy will go to sleep again tonight with his tummy grumbling.”
- Or beginning a thank you letter with “Jane will be safe at home because you gave her grab bars in the shower and a home health aide.”
- Or starting a blog post with “Pat and her two young boys’ lives changed in the blink of an eye when she learned she had inoperable cancer.”
Can you picture Jimmy and his story? Jane and hers? Pat and her two, soon-to-be homeless boys?
Resist the impulse to tell a too-long, too-complex tale.
First, you’ll never get around to writing it. Second, people don’t have time to read it.
Most people today are busy, busy, busy. They tend to scan copy. So use short sentences and paragraphs to make your copy easier to read. Make sure each sentence has impact, so if your prospect reads the first sentence, it’s likely they’ll go to the second sentence. And so on.
In my next article I’ll lay out three tried-and-true ways to tell stories people will read, enjoy and act upon. For now, just begin collecting some good stories by which you can be known!
Have some tips of your own? Please share in the comments below!