A lot of times we focus on the fact that in our roles in fundraising, we don’t personally have stories to tell. We think we have to rely on program staff for stories. But the truth is we do have great stories to collect and share – donor stories!
This month I’ve been focusing blog content on how to collect stories and primarily I’ve discussed how to work collaboratively with staff to collect stories.
Here are the earlier posts in this series:
Today we’re going to round out our Story Collecting Tip series by talking about how you can collect donor stories.
Why Donor Stories Are Powerful Stories
The assumption is this – donors only want to hear stories about the people we helped. The fact, however, is that our organization are much more robust than just the people we serve. There are lots of different stakeholder groups who make up the fabric of our organizations. If we want to immerse our donors in the full and amazing community surrounding our organization, it’s important to tell them a variety of stories.
Donor stories often go missing from non-profit storytelling strategies because we assume that they are not that compelling.
However, when we tell a donor story we are really making a peer-to-peer appeal and that can be extremely compelling.
Peer-to-peer appeals work because when we identify our values and beliefs in another person, we feel connected to them. Like they” get” us. So if that person who we think is like us tells us about something they are doing, we subconsciously begin to think that we should do the same thing. This is exactly why capital campaign committees are made up of people who have already given a major gift.
A similar theory can apply to donors of all levels and situations, which is why it is important to incorporate donor stories into your non-profit’s storytelling strategy.
Another benefit of collecting donor stories is that it’s a way to relationship build. Especially for major donors, this is a great way to steward and recognize their giving. You could tell their story in a newsletter, annual report, on your website, and so on. There are many creative ways that you can use donor stories in stewardship.
How to Collect Donor Stories
One of the great things about collecting donor stories is that it will provide you with hands-on experience and insights into story collecting that you can then share with your colleagues.
Here are my 4 steps to collecting fantastic donor stories.
Step #1 – Talk to your donors. By far the most effective way to find donor stories is to talk to your donors. It can be as simple as a thank you call for a recent gift if you’re in annual giving or a donor meeting if you’re in major gifts. Donors are not going to flock to you with stories to share. You really do have to converse with them and get to know them so that you can pinpoint potential stories. My recommendation – schedule two hours per week to make thank you phone calls to donors.
Step #2 – Ask lots of questions. When you’re talking to donors, be more interested in them by asking them questions. Aim to ask open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions. My favorite question to ask is – why do you continue to give to our organization? By asking that question, I have received some of the most amazing answers and stories from super passionate donors.
Step #3 – Listen, listen, listen. Are you listening? Okay, just checking. When you give donors the floor, you had better be listening. Don’t be multi-tasking during these conversations. Just listen and engage with what they are saying. You’ll be able to ask more thoughtful follow-up questions and hear the threads of stories that your donors have to share.
Step #4 – Create a donor stories lead bank. I used to keep a Word document on my desktop that was titled, “Donor Stories to Use.” I wrote down details from any conversations that I had with donors that I thought might be good to use in a future fundraising or communications piece. I would also write down the donor’s name and their ID number for quick reference. This document was a huge resource (and lifesaver) on numerous occasions.
Collecting donor stories is all about practicing what you preach. Lead by example and show staff that you are also doing your part to collect stories.