This is the final post in a special 12-part monthly series by Jennifer Miller — Powerful Nonprofit Stories: Finding, Framing, and Finishing.
Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly a year since I started writing guest posts for this wonderful blog (thank you, Vanessa)! There’s so much about storytelling that is powerful and motivating, and it’s been a delight to share some tips and tactics with you.
Here are my top 12 takeaways from a year of guest posts:
- Want to find good stories on a regular basis? Become a story sleuth. It means keeping your hackles raised and radar primed — at all times — for leads from your staff, volunteers, donors or anyone connected to your cause.
- During interviews, ask an open-ended question to get longer answers and better details. If your question can elicit a yes or no answer, it’s not open-ended.Send surveys to your donors (online or offline). Make sure one of the questions is whether they have a personal connection with your organization and would consider sharing their story.
- Send surveys to your donors (online or offline). Make sure one of the questions is whether they have a personal connection with your organization and would consider sharing their story.
- Add a button to your website to drum up story leads. You can put it on the navigation bar or anywhere that’s visible. When someone clicks on the button, it should take them to a landing page where they can provide a few details and leave contact information.
- Affirm donors in your stories. Because who gets tired of hearing how great they are? No one, really. By using phrases like “Because of you” or “Your gifts mean …” you’re affirming their support and causing deeper loyalty. You’re telling them how their gifts have a direct, measurable impact. You’re making them a part of the story!
- Writer’s block? Stuck fleshing out your story? Stop writing. Yes, just step away from the keyboard. Time and distance can be wondrous for massaging imagination. Come back in 24 hours. Try again.
- Use YOU throughout your stories to help your donors feel like heroes and a part of the story their giving made happen. The word YOU will grab their attention and keep them reading.
- Think of your next headline like a traffic light: Bad headlines can be a red light and stop you. Good headlines are a green light, urging you forward into the story.
- Most people skim rather than Read. Every. Single. Word. So don’t forget to give a little attention to headlines, subheads, captions, call outs, and quotes — which are the things people skim most.
- Don’t forget photos. If your goal through storytelling is to move your audience, to connect, and to open the floodgates of emotion, consider the power of photography.
- Don’t let fear stop you from telling stories that don’t always have a happy ending. You’re taking donors along on a journey. Their giving can be an important part of a successful outcome — even if it hasn’t happened yet.
- Emotion drives giving. When we give, we feel good. It’s a reward — positive reinforcement for our actions. That’s why donors have to be touched in their hearts before they’ll reach for their wallets. They have to care. Make sure your story is authentic and heartfelt — and affirms your donor — and YOU will be rewarded with deeper engagement and more support for your cause.
Jennifer Miller has 21 years of experience in direct response. She’s worked for 10 years as a Creative Director at TrueSense Marketing (www.TrueSense.com, www.linkedin.com/company/truesense-marketing; @TrueSenseMktg), helping nonprofits raise more funds through donor-centered strategies. With a Master’s in journalism and hundreds of published articles, Jennifer is in her element when she’s getting a story firsthand. Her secret? She likes to talk to people, and her goal is to get them to talk back! (Note: This doesn’t always work when it comes to rescued pets at animal welfare organizations.)