Can I tell you a story?

Who isn’t receptive to that question?!?!  Human beings LOVE stories.  We’re wired from early childhood to be lured into the narrative. We relax, kick back and are willing to be open, interested and attentive.

Of course, if you’d prefer to lecture me, I’ll take another stance entirely.  Facts and figures stop folks dead in their tracks, at best.  At worst, they make folks want to put up their dukes to refute the data.

If your fundraising is based upon spewing a bunch of numbers, you’re likely not going to win over a lot of hearts.  Sure, you’ll bring in some gifts.  But they won’t be as passionate as they could be. Nor will the folks who give them feel as good as they could.


People want to enter into the story!  They want to be part of the story!  In fact, they want to be the HERO of the story!

I’m a proponent of reframing fundraising as storytelling.

And you don’t simply “tell” your story; you “develop” your story.

In fact, I define “development” sometimes as being akin to developing a photograph. If you’re a great photographer, you’ll bring all the resources at your disposal together (camera, tripod, special lenses, lighting, editing tools, choice of subject, etc.) with the goal of developing the most compelling visual story you can — one that’s so arresting folks will absolutely be unable to look away!

‘Development’ is the art of gathering and telling stories that compel others to jump into the story to provide the happy ending.

One of the best fundraising ideas around is sharing inspiring, compelling stories. 

So… it’s important to put in place a formal process for collecting these stories from your community.  These are some ideas I’ve used:

1. Send volunteers into the field to see your work in action.

On their return, ask them to share what they’ve experienced.  The best way is at a board meeting (so others can be immediately and directly inspired), but you can also debrief them individually. Take notes, or even record them, so you can build a shareable “story bank.”

2. Ask program staff to share stories with you. 

Perhaps schedule a monthly meeting with key staffers solely for the purpose of hearing a story or two.  My boss used to call these “Stories that will break your heart and restore your hope.” You can then use these stories in your blog or e-newsletter.  Or even in your annual appeal or thank you letters.

3, Schedule opportunities for all staff to come together to share stories. 

I used to do this regularly on a Friday afternoon.  Program and development/administrative staff would intermingle and talk about the week’s successes over a glass of wine and a bit of bread and cheese.  It was a great way to build a culture of philanthropy, affirming that we were all aligned with the mission in our respective lines of work.  And great stories always surfaced.

4. Ask board members and other volunteers to share their personal story.

What inspired them to get involved with you?  What continues to inspire them?  Ask them to tell these stories at regularly schedule meetings of your board and committees.

5. Bring in folks you serve to tell the story of how they were helped. 

This is called the “mission moment,” and it’s a great way to assure your volunteers have great stories on the tips of their tongues. The best way they can be an advocate, ambassador and asker on behalf of your cause is through the telling of these stories.

Hope this is helpful!

  • For more details on collecting relevant, compelling stories, check out this article.
  • To learn more about developing your story so it truly resonates and moves your readers/listeners emotionally, check out this article.

If you found this TIP helpful, please email me at and let me know.  To your success!