One of the best places to tell a story is when you are at a donor meeting. This could be a face-to-face major gifts meeting, it could be at an intimate donor event or even a simple phone call. The opportunity to personally chat with donors and tell them more about the great work they are making possible is unparalleled.
But sometimes when we think about actually telling that story, we get tripped up and don’t know where to start. In other words, how will we tell the story to that donor?
Oral storytelling is a tradition that dates back hundreds of thousands of years and I’d like to suggest that this is exactly what you’re doing at a donor meeting when telling them a story. It’s something of a performance. A very fun one, in fact! Personally, it’s my favourite way to share stories.
Whether you’re just dipping your foot into the storytelling pool or are looking for ways to finesse your storytelling technique, here are 7 tips to help you tell a better story next time you talk to a donor.
Tip #1 – Start with the end in mind. When getting ready for your meeting, you might have an idea of things you want to discuss, where the conversation might go and what outcome you hope to achieve. This is all to avoid it becoming an awkward and somewhat pointless meeting. You don’t want your story to meet that fate either. Think about why you’re telling it so that you can clearly make the story relevant to the rest of the conversation you’ve been having with the donor.
Tip #2 – Make it relevant to the donor. Along the same lines of knowing why you’re telling the story, you’ll want to make the story relevant to the donor. This could include telling them a story about their favourite program or a story from a project that they donated to.
Tip #3 – A smooth transition. There’s no need to announce that you’re going to tell them a story and why you’re doing so. Let’s aim to be more subtle. For example, you could be providing the donor with an update about a project that they made a gift to and then say, “You know, just the other day I was talking with the program manager (name), and they were telling me about. . “ This is an example of how you can smoothly transition into the story.
Tip #4 – Have an emotional trigger. Every story has an emotion underpinning it. It’s usually what you want your audience to feel. Identify what that emotion is and think about how you can tell the story to really draw out that emotion for your donor.
Tip #5 – It’s all in the details. The more details you can share, the more rich and engaging the story will be. Now, if you’re not the character of the story it can feel like a stretch to go into great detail. In preparing to tell this story, try to gather more details about the character and their experience.
Tip #6 – Bring the story with you. If there’s the opportunity, consider bringing the staff member or client with you to the meeting to have them personally share the story. This can be a really special experience for the donor and a way to connect with them in a more emotional way.
Tip #7 – Prep your story ahead of time. No, this does not make it contrived. It makes you smart! As you plan for your meeting, think about what story you want to tell. Sometimes I find that writing out what I’m going to say before I go into a meeting helps me to internalize and rehearse a bit. Find practice that works for you and make it a pre-meeting ritual.
Telling stories in conversation is a skill that anyone can learn and get better at! With a little planning and a lot of passion you can.