It’s no secret that excellent storytelling inspires donors to fund nonprofit missions. Unfortunately, many charities may not fully grasp the techniques required to maximize the effect their stories have on current and potential donors.
Think deep, not wide
Rather than recounting many staggering statistics related to a global affliction like starvation, psychologist Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon suggests focusing on a single person, rather than an entire population. In one particularly surprising study, Slovic found that when he presented a group of volunteers with a story about one small child suffering from hunger, they were prepared to donate twice as much money as another group of volunteers who received the same story, but with an addendum. This second group also received information from Slovic about the millions of other people suffering from starvation around the world.
These findings indicate that donors who are confident that their contribution will make a difference in one person’s life are likely to give more than donors who feel their efforts won’t make a dent in a much more widespread issue. The goal for nonprofits, then, is to tell a story with narrow focus, intimate detail and specific calls to action.
Hold up a mirror
Nonprofit Hub points out that in the course of telling a story, contributors should either see themselves or someone they know reflected back at them. The donor does not necessarily have to view their life in tandem with the main character in the story, but he or she should be directly affected by the overall purpose of the narrative and fall into the role of either the victim or the hero.
A team of researchers believe they have discovered why the human brain is so motivated by storytelling, reported the Harvard Business Review. They found that brains need tension within a story in order to better connect to it. With the addition of tension, whether between two characters or a particular circumstance, listeners begin to share the same sentiments and behaviors of the people involved. Compelling stories about real people prove most effective. This is why it’s incredibly important to have an emotional element present in the narrative. Whether this emotion is anger, fear or joy, it does not matter, as long as the audience feels something.
Live, not online
Though online marketing videos are widely popular today and may very well be effective tools, nothing compares to the power a real person brings to a room of people. If the nonprofit is supporting a fundraiser or a hosting an annual gala, finding someone who can tell their story to a group of donors is one of the most effective tactics around. Charities supporting causes with uncomfortable or difficult subject matter should definitely look into having someone in need of funding speak directly to constituents. This makes the topic more personal.
Power of two
If stories are long and drawn out, there is a good chance donors will forego a giving opportunity. Today, contributors choose wisely where they give and spend their money. A storyteller should be able to connect with an audience quickly. The problem is, many of those in need do not have anyone to speak on their behalf and they may be wary of speaking alone. Pairing two stories with similar paths together can solve this problem.
Paul VanDeCarr attended an event for Resurrection after Exoneration during which two men took turns sharing their experiences of being wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. As both people spoke, VanDeCarr noticed that since there were two men of different backgrounds affected by the same unfortunate situation, it was harder for him to discredit one. They also held the audience in suspense as they took turns relaying different portions of their experiences, which alleviated any boredom.
Nonprofit organizations need to invest in donor management software to effectively plan their storytelling events and spread their mission. Without reliable systems for enlisting the help of volunteers, reaching out to constituents and conveying powerful stories, nonprofits will lose relevancy and funding. One account can represent and have an impact on the millions of other stories just like it around the world.