Stories are an incredible tool for non-profit fundraising. Stories help non-profits illustrate their compelling reasons for giving in a way that makes sense to people who aren’t doing the work day in and day out. And when a fundraising appeal is easy to understand, there’s one less barrier to someone donating. Your non-profit has lots of stories to tell and some of those will be your best suited stories for non-profit fundraising.
Let’s talk about the five types of stories for non-profit fundraising so that you can start using your best stories in your fundraising materials.
The Problem Story
Making a donation to a non-profit is all about solving a problem. In the fundraising appeal, you are laying out a case for why donating will make a real difference to a community or global problem. Telling a story that pulls apart what that problem is will help donors understand the scope and impact of the problem your organization wants to solve.
When you tell a problem story, here are a few key points to include:
- What is the problem facing the people or place your organization is trying to help?
- Why does the problem persist?
- Why have others failed to address it?
- Why is your organization uniquely positioned to address it?
The Impact Story
The impact story is a tried and true story for fundraising. It’s the most common story I see in my inbox and mailbox. We know from Penelope Burk’s research that donors want to know 1) how their money was used and 2) what impact it had after making a gift. Well, it’s easy to tell donors what impact their gift will have before they even make a gift.
When you tell an impact story, here are a few key points to include:
- What is the transformation donations will make possible?
- What is possible for people or a place after the transformation has taken place?
- Does the impact have a ripple effect? If so, describe that.
- Why is this impact ultimately important?
The Unique Perspective Story
One of the challenges we all come up against in fundraising is standing out in donors’ minds, hearts and ultimately wallets. While there are many tactics to try to achieve this, your messaging positioning might be your low hanging fruit. One of the ways to develop your messaging positioning is through a unique perspective story.
A unique perspective story highlights your organization’s unique opinion, approach or vantage point on the work you do. Chances are, your unique perspective might influence your programming choices. The unique perspective is there but by teasing it out, you’re giving donors an opportunity to connect with it.
When you tell a unique perspective story, here are a few key points to include:
- What does your organization think or do differently from non-profits who have similar programs?
- What has influenced this difference?
- What should donors care about this difference?
The Values Story
Values are what drive people to give to certain causes. Inevitably, there is an articulation of values through most stories. But sometimes it can be a good exercise to write a story through the filter of a certain value. There can be some overlap with the unique perspective story in that your perspective could be motivated by a certain value or set of values. These stories establish right versus wrong sides of an issue and can be highly motivating to donors.
If you tell a values story, here are a few key points to include:
- What is the value (or values) at play?
- What does it say about someone to have this value?
- What action(s) does this value inspire?
The Giving Story
We can’t talk about stories for non-profit fundraising without talking about giving stories. A giving stories is tremendously powerful social proof that other people like your organization enough to make donations. These stories tend to feature a donor or entity who gives to your organization. There’s a heavy emphasis on why they give, which allows other donors to identify with their motivations.
If you tell a giving story, here are a few key points to include:
- What are some essential demographic or psychographic details about the donor?
- What inspired their gift?
- What drew them to your organization?
- What do they want other people to know about your organization?
Here’s a list of my favorite questions to ask a donor when telling a giving story.
Stories are a powerful tool for non-profit fundraising. If you’ve used one of these types of stories in your fundraising material, I hope you have some new inspiration for those stories. If you’re ready to tell your first story, I hope you have inspiration to get started today. And if you’re just getting started with stories for non-profit fundraising, here’s my best advice for beginners.