Stories are the core of a great fundraising appeal. Ideally, we want to share our theory of change story plus a specific story example. But sometimes finding a specific story to tell is easier said than done.
When I’ve surveyed non-profit professionals in the past, they often cite difficulty finding stories to tell as the #1 reason why their organization is not telling more stories. If you work in communications or fundraising, there can be an added challenge when it comes to finding stories to tell.
In today’s post, I am detangling the process of finding a story for your next appeal to give you a clear path to finding stories.
Step 1: Start With Your Audience
Anytime you are working on something that is going to an external audience, you must start with what you know about that audience. Who are they? What is their connection to your organization? What are their demographics and psychographics?
You might be able to ascertain this information from your donor records. Other times, it can be helpful to do a donor survey. Regardless of how you acquire the information, summarize it in an audience profile.
An audience profile will help you distil essential information about your audience into useful data points. This in turn will help you have a crystal clear picture of who it is your are communicating with. You’ll want to do this because after all, your goal is to resonate with your audience.
Step 2: Key Message and Call to Action
Once you know who it is you are communicating with, think about the high-level points of your appeal. Specifically, the key message and call to action, which are the backbone of the appeal. Every sentence, every story, every graphic ideally needs to strengthen your message and call to action.
Start with this question: What do I want my audience to think?
Then answer this question: What do I want my audience to do?
Step 3: Story Ideas
To get your audience to go from thinking to doing, they have to feel something. Most often, feeling originates in a story. What I recommend doing next is brainstorming possible story ideas. This might seem counter-intuitive because you may be brainstorming stories that don’t even exist. But the reason that I suggest you do this is to have some ideas and examples of stories to share with co-workers who might know of these stories.
This is a much better alternative than going around saying, “I need a story for my next appeal. Do you have any stories?”
Think about your answer to this question: What kinds of stories will strengthen my key message and call to action?
Step 4: Make Your Story Asks
Once you have some general ideas for the types of stories you want to tell, it’s time to make some asks. . . story asks that is!
You have to get out from behind your desk and talk to people. Have conversations, go to lunch with co-workers, attend a programs meeting, volunteer with a program, talk to volunteers, and so on. Find opportunities to get out there to talk to the people who have the stories.
One of my recommendations is to block off a recurring time in your calendar for this. Maybe it’s an hour a week or 30 minutes. Whatever you feel you can commit to, put it in your calendar and follow through.
One of the sayings that really drives my work is: “clarity comes from inspired action.” I don’t remember where I heard that, but it’s a phrase that I often come back to. I think it applies to our quest to find stories because we have to take action in order to find stories to tell. And, the more action we take the more clarity we have on the specific story we want to tell.
As you continue the process of working on your year-end appeal, I want to encourage you to take action! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What action will you take this week?