The internet and its vast online tools have allowed us to be able to track and monitor the impact of our fundraising efforts closely and accurately. Data and metrics can also easily pinpoint the impact of a nonprofit. However, it is important that we do not forget that although data can allow us to convey plenty of things, it is the people behind the data who are actually creating our nonprofit’s impact. Donors, volunteers and staff are the ones who are allowing us to taking our fundraising efforts further. Which is why there is one key thing that we should always be thinking about and trying to improve: how we tell our nonprofit’s stories. The art of storytelling is not one that is easy to master, but once you begin to understand why it’s important and how you should be telling these, you’ll be able to tell better stories that will keep donors connected to your organization.
Understanding why people give
Behavioral psychologists, nonprofits and nonprofit technologists have always been fascinated by this for years. Why do people give? What prompts someone to give or not to give? There is no right answer to these questions, however studies have shown that the following are among the major reasons on why people are willing to give:
We want to be a part of the story - We all want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Giving to charitable causes immediately connects us to something tangible that is having impact in the world.
Our peers are giving, so we should give too - Think about the recent boom in crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns, aside from people wanting to be a part of the story we also are inspired to give when we see our friends and family chipping in to a cause.
This all brings us to the importance of storytelling. We want to feel good, be a part of something big that our peers are also a part of, however, before we even think of becoming a part of a cause we must have read or watched something that triggers the want to give. Enter storytelling. You can have a great cause that could have an enormous impact in the community, but without a good story you will be unlikely to have people who want to support it.
Why storytelling is Important
People give because it allows them to write their own story and partake in a shared story. If your storytelling is not compelling enough, the reader might not feel engaged and might not feel the need to want to partake in this particular story and cause.
The harsh truth is this: donors do not want to hear all the details about your organization and the programs you provide. Donors, especially the younger donor, want to hear about the social impact that is made possible through their donations to your nonprofit. This is where storytelling comes into play and where you can stand out from the rest.
Much of the work that your organization is doing is not necessarily relatable to the average donor. To counteract this, you can share the stories of the people you serve, your supporters, and anyone else that will allow you to hopefully create that human connection to your nonprofit. Not using storytelling would translate into simply telling prospective or current donors a bullet point list of your programs. Some of these they might not even understand, and they will most definitely will not get the longterm impact of these services.
In simple terms, Stories are what give meaning to data and facts. These stories are what allow a donor to emotionally connect to your nonprofit’s impact.
What Good Storytelling looks like
There is more to storytelling than typing up someone’s experiences, what does it take to have a good story for raising funds?
It’s Universal - Think about your different constituents and how each of them could or could not relate to your story.Write a story that transcends any barriers that might segment your demographics. For example, an organization that is benefiting Alzheimer’s research can tell a story not just about the patients suffering from the disease, but how it also affects the patient’s spouse, children and grandchildren. Show them how they, too, could be one of the people affected by the issue.
It’s Memorable - Storytelling is in the end a creative endeavor. Remember, you are using storytelling to truly stand out, and the only way of doing so is by making your story and how you present it truly memorable. Aside from the written part of your story think about how your reader will see it; use photographs, graphics, and videos to further engage the reader.
It’s Varied - There are many types of stories you can tell about your organization, it’s people and it’s impact. Don’t stick to just one type of story, mix it up and give your supporters a bigger picture. Check out our infographic in which we’ve highlighted the different types of stories you can tell about your nonprofit:
It makes the Donor the Hero - In the end, your story must make readers want to support or continue their support to your organization. Finish your stories with powerful, emotive statements and call to actions. However, don’t create a fascinating story and end it in a generic appeal. Remind your donor how they can be the true hero for those who benefit from your organization. Remember, people give because it makes them feel good and makes them a part of a success story. Tell a story about what the decision to donate says about the person in that moment. Give them the choice to be the real heros.
By giving your cause a voice and sharing impact through stories, your nonprofit will be able to connect with donors’ minds and hearts. Inspire your donors through passionate and authentic stories. Remember, If you want your donors to give more, you too have to give them more. Give your donors more than your traditional appeal for donations and start telling your stories.