Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked to numerous clients and colleagues who are trying to get started on their year-end appeals and campaign. It’s a big task and figuring out where to start can be a bit daunting. To give you some insight into my process, I shared 5 things I do in September to prepare for year-end fundraising. The last (but certainly not least important) item on that list is to find a story for the appeal.
It probably comes as no surprise that I think using a story in year-end fundraising appeals is important. Donors want to know exactly how their gift will make a difference, and by telling them a story about the difference they can make you will clearly paint them a picture of what’s possible.
Once you’ve decided on the theme and messaging for your appeal, it’s time to look for a story that will complement it. Here are 5 tips for finding the perfect story for your year-end appeal.
Tip #1 Narrow your search
Based on the theme and messaging you’ve decided on, you’ll want to narrow your search for a story. Chances are, not every program or service you offer will have a story that makes sense with the message. Start by eliminating which programs or services are least likely to have a story that fits with the messaging.
Tip #2 Prioritize your search
Now that you’ve created a list of possible contenders, prioritize which programs or services you want to use a story from. This will give you some structure for finding the story. Rather than having to talk to everyone right away, you can begin with your first choice and then go down the list.
Tip #3 Let people know what you’re looking for
Get the word at your organization about the story that you are looking for. Be specific when you tell people about it. Mention the messaging, the ask, and what program(s) you think you want to feature in the story. By letting people know that you are looking for a specific story, you might get a few leads and get people creatively thinking about possible stories.
Tip #4 Have lots of conversations
From my experience, the best way to collect a story is to have one-on-one conversations with people. Email can be indirect and the phone can be a little impersonal, so I like to schedule lunch or coffee dates with people to just talk about their work. You might want to start with colleagues or volunteers. I would recommend starting this process now because it might take you a bit to schedule a meeting, and it might take several meetings before you find the right story.
Tip #5 Say thank you
As people share stories and story leads with you, don’t forget to say thank you! Be appreciative of them time and experiences. I always go out of my way to make sure anyone who has been helpful in the process is well thanked. A handwritten note can go a long way.
These are a few tips to help you find your story. If you are looking for more tips on collecting and finding stories, check out these posts.