Behind every good fundraising strategy is a solid donation management software platform, one that can optimize data for a strong approach to supporter engagement. In conjunction with fundraising software, storytelling might be an organization’s most useful tool in donor recruitment and retention.
The search for storytellers
Real-life narratives of social change provide a way for audiences to personally connect to a charitable goals. In addition, they serve as veritable proof of a nonprofit’s success in carrying out its mission. Stories help donors rest assured that their gifts can and will help enact a noble cause.
It’s not difficult to convince anyone that personal narratives have value, but nonprofit fundraisers are faced with the question of how to tell an authentic tale. First, they must find the right story to tell. Here are some expert tips for sourcing meaningful stories:
Finding a voice
According to nonprofit consultant Jennifer Miller, charitable organizations should begin with the individuals who’ve been directly helped by the organization. In Miller’s experience, people are often looking for a way to give back to the groups who have come to their aid. Their desire to return the kindness means they’re probably open to requests of sharing their narratives.
Volunteers also have stories to tell, and not just about themselves. Over the course of their nonprofit work, they’ve seen others’ experiences unfold. In the same vein, donors can be a wonderful source of inspiration. They can express why they love the cause, and demonstrate the positive outcome of their investment, encouraging potential givers to follow suit.
Shaping the narrative
Authenticity should be at the heart of the story. Let people speak about their firsthand experiences on their own terms, said nonprofit trainer Lori Jacobwith.
Kate Marple, communications manager at George Washington University’s National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, agreed: A nonprofit should not edit a story to change its original meaning. Since fundraising is the primary purpose behind nonprofit storytelling, it can be tempting to revise other’s words with a marketer’s eye. Even with good intentions, this isn’t the way to go.
“A single story carries a lot of power.”
It’s better to ask someone how they’d like their story to be presented and shared. Would they like to tell it themselves at a fundraising event? Are they more comfortable with posting their words online, instead of speaking to a large group? Perhaps they’d rather tell the story in a one-on-one interview, letting a member of the nonprofit’s staff do the writing. Remember that the giver of the story is a partner in the charitable vision; this person is not just providing publicity fodder.
Reaching a larger audience
If a single story carries a lot of power, imagine the resonance of multiple experiences. Organizations have the most to gain through telling multiple narratives, said communications consultant Andy Goodman. The more voices are heard, the more connections are made.
Nonprofits can use management software analytics tools to learn which stories have the greatest impact, and why.
Empowering the protagonists
When approaching those with stories to tell, it’s likely some requests will be met with shyness or fear. One common response is the assertion that a story isn’t good enough to be inspiring. Everyone’s story is worth sharing, and small things can reach large audiences. Fundraisers should encourage individuals to tell their experience, while reminding them that the choice is theirs to make.