Storytelling has been a vital part of fundraisers for decades. Think about the famed Jerry Lewis Telethon, which started in 1966. Sure, this annual Labor Day telethon featured plenty of entertainers, but it was the stories of the children and adults living with muscular dystrophy that stole the show. Over the years, this telethon effectively raised more than $2.4 billion.

Thanks to the internet and today’s technology, nonprofits do not have to depend on annual telethons or other live events to make storytelling a part of their fundraiser.

Benefits of Storytelling

Storytelling has a way of evoking emotions, such as love, compassion, and empathy. When you can connect on an emotional level with potential donors, you increase the likelihood that they will donate. Renowned author, Maya Angelou understood this powerful connection when she said that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will not forget how you made them feel.”

Telling donors about your organization and showing them what your organization does it great, but when you can transform this into a story that evokes feelings, it becomes unforgettable. Your story, told well, not only entices donors to donate to your current fundraising efforts, but it also can encourage them to make future donations.

Using Story throughout the Fundraising Process

For the biggest impact, storytelling should be used before, during, and after your fundraising event.

· Pre-Event

Storytelling can be used to introduce your fundraising event and draw attention to your cause. Consider using storytelling in your social media posts or email campaign to spur interest for your upcoming fundraising event. For example, World Bicycle Relief used stories of previous rides to entice both new and former riders to sign up for their next Ride the Rockies fundraiser.

· During the Event

Whether you are hosting a live event or a web-based fundraiser, storytelling can help to pull it all together. Personal stories from your staff, volunteers, and clients are ideal for live events. For example, if you are hosting a live event, using storytelling to share how your services impact the lives of others can create an emotional bond with donors and ensure a successful fundraiser.

Storytelling also should play a powerful role in web-based fundraisers, you can use videos, content, images, and data visualization to grab the donor’s attention and entice them to make a donation. The nonprofit, Charity: Water used a video to promote their fundraising efforts. The video gives viewers a look at the services offered and details how these services have impacted people around the world. The video concludes by encourages viewers to donate to help fight their cause.

· After the Event

Storytelling does not have to stop once your fundraising event is over. You can use the storytelling to recap your event, share your successes, and to tell donors more about your organization. Continuing your efforts can help to keep your nonprofit fresh in the minds of potential donors and increase repeat donation.

Tips for Incorporating Storytelling into Your Fundraiser

Storytelling can be a very compelling marketing technique, but there are several things you should keep in mind when incorporating storytelling into your fundraiser.

  • Choose the Right Story – Chose your stories carefully. You want to use stories that accurately reflect your organization’s goals and that allows you to connect with the reader in a way that can conjure emotion.
  • Know Your Target Audience – When developing your story, it is vital that you know who your target audience is. Typically, this is current and prospective donors. Understanding what is relevant to your target audience can help you build a story that speaks directly to them.
  • Use Supporting Facts – You must make sure that every point in your story is accurate. If you have facts that support claims made within the story be sure to share these facts with your viewers. This will bring an element of legitimacy to your storytelling strategy. For even more impact, use visual storytelling for data.
  • Length is Important – It can be tricky deciding how long to make each story you want to share. Remember people have short attention spans, so it’s important to tell your story in the shortest time possible. Studies suggest that any story should be no more than 20 minutes. After this point, viewers could lose interest.

Contact us to talk about how storytelling can help you take your next fundraiser to the next level and connect with donors on a personal level.