One of Vanessa’s recent posts was about the #1 storytelling challenge: collecting stories.
I couldn’t agree more. Collecting stories strikes fear in even the most seasoned fundraisers. There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page or screen, wondering how to fill it.
It’s too bad storytelling doesn’t have a remote starter, like most cars. You usually have to get out there and crank the engine yourself. But once you do — once you’ve put a process into place to find and collect fundraising stories — what’s next? How do you keep the story pipeline flowing?
Here are five tips:
- Cast a wide net. That means making sure your peers, your donors, your volunteers, and anyone else involved in your organization knows you’re on the hunt for good stories. Treat this like any other campaign you would publicize. Get the word out on your website, social sites, your Facebook page, printed pieces and emails. Make sure you offer an easy way for someone to contact you to share their story or to give you a lead.
- Send out a quarterly online survey to supporters, staff, and affiliated community members. Use one of the many survey sites to do this. Make it simple and specific. What kinds of stories would you like to see? Do you have a personal story to share? Do you know someone who does? Why do you support our organization? May we contact you? Feel free to lead the witness a little to make people dig deep.
- Create a consistent call to action. Finding and gathering stories is a lot like asking for a donation. You are asking for a specific action, and you have to make it easy for someone to respond. Keep the call to action — and call for stories — the same everywhere you can. Repetition is reinforcing!
- Add a large button to your website. 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 story leads and contact information.
- Create a lead sheet. Collecting stories starts with leads. Leave no stone unturned, because you never know what story gold you’ll find. A lead sheet helps you chronicle and codify any and all leads, even if it’s just a phone number or someone’s name. Lead sheets should include a way to record names, phone numbers, emails, a quick story summary, and any other specifics to be aware of (like protecting confidentiality). Keep these lead sheets around the office for anyone to pick up and use. This helps make it easy for the stories to come to you!
Finding stories is hard work. But if you put a process in place and get the word out using these five tips, you’ll keep the pipeline flowing. So the next time you’re staring at that blank page, you won’t be wondering how to fill it. You’ll be wondering how to choose from all the great content you already have!
Next month in part five of this series: The six As of storytelling!
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.)