A huge amount of philanthropic giving happens during the month of December. Coupling the spirit of the holiday season, the urgency of the year-end tax deadline and the fact the non-profits are asking more, means donors are giving more. According to some industry research, as much as 31% of all annual giving happens during December. To help you maximize your fundraising efforts this month, I’m here with advice on how to tell stories that raise money in December.
Why Tell Stories in December
There are so many reasons why your non-profit should tell stories. My top reasons for telling stories this month include:
- Stories give donors concrete examples to help them understand their impact
- Stories help you explore different facets of your central message to connect with different types of donors
- Stories help you explain your theory of change in a clear, tangible way
All of these reasons to tell stories boil down to this — stories help non-profits explain what they do in a way that drives engagement. And we can all use more engagement during December, right?
Next, let’s talk about some storytelling strategies to help you maximize your giving.
Two Types of Stories to Tell to Raise More Money in December
There are lots of different types of stories you can tell in fundraising. Here are two types of stories I use during clients’ campaigns in December that tend to perform well.
The Future Story
One of the stories that I’ve used the last couple of years during year-end fundraising is what I call “the future story.” This is a story about the upcoming year. In this story, you are highlighting a problem that your organization solves, what it matters that you keep solving it, and how donors can help set you up for success in the new year.
I like this kind of story in a year-end campaign because it feels timely for the season (especially the last few days of December) and paints a clear picture of your vision for the next year. It can be an inspiring story that gets donors excited about the possibilities and bought into your non-profit’s leadership on an issue area.
Here’s an example of this kind of story that I worked on for a client’s campaign last year.
You can read the full version of the email here. The key message about the future that this email was built around was that 2020 was a year of uncertainty and that while the organization didn’t know what 2021 would be like, they wanted to be prepared to help any families turning to them for help. In a sense, the non-profit wanted to provide some certainty to the families they help.
I’ve also seen emails with this kind of storytelling where CEOs or EDs will lay out goals for the next year and tell stories about why the goals will make a difference.
The Update Story
If you had a story that performed particularly well this year, one tactic you can use during year-end fundraising is to provide an update to the original story. Strategy into year-end fundraising takes some of the guesswork out of figuring out what will resonate with your audience.
Here are a few tips for telling a great update story.
- Take a look at your analytics from the last year to find a story that got a lot of engagement or donations.
- Determine if you can reconnect with the person whose story was featured to. If you can, you’ll want to ask them questions like:
What’s been happening in your life since we worked on your story together?
Have there been any changes?
What are you currently excited about or looking forward to?
Additional Tips to Tell Stories that Raise More Money
When I write stories and fundraising appeals for December, I always come back to four tried and true principles of copywriting.
- Give people one extremely good reason to care. You don’t need a laundry list of reasons for people to give. Having one, very strong reason will help you craft clear, compelling copy.
- Your extremely good reason to care must connect to your theory of change. This is all about helping people see why they should donate now instead of next week, next month, or next year. Help them understand the change their donation will facilitate and why it’s urgent.
- When editing, make sure you put your very best copy at the top. I read so many fundraising appeals where the very best, punchiest copy is buried somewhere in the middle. You don’t need to build up to it. In fact, if that copy is what you hope grabs people’s attention, use it at the beginning to grab their attention from the get go.
- If you sound like a broken record in your mind, you’re likely on the right track. I get asked all the time about how often non-profits should change up their messaging, tell new stories, etc. My answer is always far less often than you think. It takes time to establish narrative and consistent messaging. If you’re always trying to reinvent the wheel with each appeal, you’re not going to benefit from the traction that comes with consistent messaging.
If you’re looking for more copywriting advice, check out these posts.
How to Write Fundraising Emails that Hook Readers
Fundraising Appeal Writing Tips for Non-Profit Professionals
How to Start Writing Your Fundraising Appeal
Why Your Fundraising Copy isn’t Fundraising