How to raise more funds with storytelling

There’s a lot of talk about storytelling in fundraising, and it’s easy to get the idea that all you have to do is throw in a story about a beneficiary to create an appeal that does gangbusters.

It’s not that simple, of course. The storytelling in an appeal is of a specific type with certain requirements and restrictions. On the other hand, storytelling for a newsletter tends to follow what we would usually think of as a typical narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

And that’s where this post about improving your storytelling with playwriting techniques can come in handy.

The first thing to consider is the basic structure of a plot.

  • The beginning, where we meet the characters and hopefully being to feel a connection with them.
  • The middle, where a problem or challenge is encountered.
  • The end, where the problem or challenge is overcome, and the protagonist is changed in some way. And the donor is given the credit.

The next thing to consider is how to flesh out the characters in the story:

  • What does each character want?
    What are the conflicts involved?
  • What are the obstacles?
  • What are the consequences to a particular character’s actions?

Naturally, for a newsletter story it’s not necessary to answer all of these questions, but they do provide a starting point for thinking about the characters who make up your story and how to add more depth to them in order to bring them to life for readers.

One more thing to consider is the quotations you use in your story. You can think of the quotations as a character speaking directly with the reader in a sort-of dialogue. So it’s better when the quotations reveal something about the character and his or her motivations, rather than just reinforcing the previous point in the story. This too can add more depth to the story.

These are some of the basics, but there’s lots more to good storytelling. Still, storytelling isn’t a panacea for ineffective fundraising, but it is a powerful part of connecting with donors on an emotional level. Let your donors feel what the beneficiaries of your nonprofit feel. Let your donors relate to their lives, instead of thinking of them as somehow separate. Let your donors into their world. That’s what will engage your donors, and a heartfelt story is one of the best ways to do it.


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