Session Notes: How to Craft a Memorable Special Appeal Story

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We had the pleasure of hearing from Shanon Doolittle of Doogooder today at The Storytelling Non-Profit Virtual Conference. Shanon is an amazing special events fundraisers and it was an absolute pleasure to hear her expertise on event programming. Specifically, Shanon discussed how to prep your event speakers for a memorable special appeal.

Below are the slides from Shanon’s session.

Highlights and Takeaways

> There are three reasons why special appeals fail. 1) Not identifying the audience. 2) Not having a purpose in mind. 3) Underprepared and nervous speaker.
> “What do you want your audience to think, feel and do?”
> The most successful special appeals tell a compelling story.
> Story structure matters. The different parts of the story will help to balance each other.
> Don’t dump raw emotion on your audience.
> “Passion trumps polish.”
> Limit the details that don’t move the story forward.

FAQs From The Session

Our ED is the main speaker at all the events and doesn’t follow of the best practices for events you’ve talked about. They spend too much time on their story of the founding of the organization. How should I approach her with these helpful hints?
I believe Shanon called this the “barracuda ED!” She also made a great point that this type of ED probably wants to have the mic to be the face of the organization and emphasize strategic messaging. A great alternative is to make them the MC for the event.

Should I be asking the speak who shared their story to also make the ask?
It’s all about what that person is comfortable with. When possible, it’s very powerful to have the storyteller also make the ask. But if that’s not possible, have someone come up after wards to add a few closing thoughts to the story and make the ask.

Shanon also mentioned that live speakers are usually better than a video. But if you choose to use video, you can still have the storyteller come on stage at the end to make a short and succinct ask.

What if we don’t know where to start with choosing a speaker?
Start with your staff. Tell everyone about the event, its purpose and its audience. Then explain your speaking needs and give them a very clear idea of what you’re looking for. Clients, their families, donors and staff members all make for great special appeal speakers.

Do you have a question about having a speaker share a story at an event? Leave a comment below and we’ll be glad to answer it!

- Vanessa

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