The art of storytelling is a centuries-old tradition that has connected humanity across generations. As human beings, we crave information, connection, inspiration, and hope, and stories deliver this in a uniquely powerful way.
In the world of philanthropy, telling impactful stories is one of the strongest ways to form long-lasting, authentic relationships between organizations and donors. In fact, storytelling is one of the most important tools in a fundraiser’s toolbox. Effective stories bring your work and programs to life, demonstrating the real, tangible changes you’re making – either in the lives of specific individuals or across society as a whole. They don’t just tell, but show donors why they should care, get involved, or give to your organization.
Here’s a simple yet effective storytelling formula that has yielded fundraising results time and time again: 1) Introduce your character (or client), 2) Describe the problem or challenge the client is facing, 3) Explain how your programs/services are helping to solve their challenge, and 4) Give the donor a call to action. This fourth step is essential in motivating donors to become an active part of the solution. When donors feel empowered to positively shape the story’s ending, they are more likely to give to your organization.
Like any skill, the more you practice, the more storytelling will become second nature, but it does not have to be complex! Here are four tips to level up your organization’s culture of storytelling:
- Identify your strongest storytellers – Leverage the strengths within your organization by identifying powerful and effective spokespeople.! Your strongest storyteller may not always be your executive director or development director. Whether it’s your clients, staff, volunteers, or board members, it’s important to know who you can lean on for storytelling across different settings.
- Create a story bank or library. We use stories for nearly every fundraising effort imaginable – year-end appeals, fundraising events, grant applications, email newsletters, and so much more. Fortunately, there are many digital tools that can help organize and compile your stories, so they are never lost or forgotten! Pro tip: Share your story library with prospective board members, new staff, and other stakeholders to get them up to speed quickly.
- Use different mediums/platforms. Storytelling does not have to be one-dimensional. In fact, it shouldn’t be! Use photos, videos, infographics, and gifs to amplify your story’s impact and tailor it to your specific audience. Content can be repurposed across platforms so you can deliver your message in a variety of ways.
- Collect data about what works. Every organization’s donor audience is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success. Get to know what strikes a chord with your donors by monitoring key performance metrics like email open rates, social media engagement, responses to annual appeals, webpage visits, and more. When you know what platforms and key messages are resonating with your donors, you can use it to your advantage.
At My Philanthropy Team, we LOVE developing the strategy and language that results in deep, long-lasting relationships. From case statement to annual reports to social media strategy, our creative and talented writers can work with you to write memorable and moving stories that flow across digital and print platforms. What are the stories you need to tell? My Philanthropy Team has helped countless organizations amplify their voice through donor-centered communication and storytelling pieces that showcase how their programs are impacting lives and building stronger communities.
What story are you telling? Is the narrative compelling and impactful? What are the various story-telling tools you reach for time and again? My Philanthropy Team is your go-to resource for crafting outstanding stories that move your donors to action. Whether its writing foundation proposals, annual reports, or direct response appeals, we are here to help. Contact us today!