There are many ways to tell a story. Traditionally we think of a story as having a beginning, a middle, and an end. But many fundraisers often wonder: how do I know where to begin?
Two weeks ago, I shared one strategy for beginning your story, which is to lead with a question. In that post, I told you that by leading with a question you can capture your reader’s attention and get him or her thinking about a reality different from his or her own. This is a powerful tool, because it immediately shifts your potential donor’s perspective resulting in them being more engaged with the story.
Today, I want to show you another way to write a compelling opener.
Put your audience in the action from the start
As I said at the beginning of this post, we usually think of a story’s structure as a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, when approaching a fundraising story in this way, many organizations leaving out the most important element: connection. The beginning of a fundraising story should really be about establishing and cementing a connection with the reader; not just merely stating the facts of the story.
Ideally, we want to connect with our audience as quickly as possible. This increases the likelihood that they will stay engaged with the story through to the end.
Unfortunately, I too often see nonprofit stories using the beginning to provide the reader with all the background facts. For instance, they tell the reader who this story is about and what problems that person faced. However, while this is important information to share with your audience, rattling it off right away does not make for the most compelling story. Instead, we need to put our audience in the action right from the very first sentence.
Quotes immerse the audience in the action
Instead of describing the action, it’s better to show it to your audience. The best way to do this is to use a quote from your story’s “protagonist” as the first sentence.
Here are a few examples of this storytelling method:
Meals on Wheels Chicago Annual Report (page 7)
Canadian Women’s Foundation Impact Story
Union Gospel Mission’s Newsletter—Miranda’s Story
Next time you interview someone for a story, listen closely to his or her words; you may be able to find the perfect quote to launch your fundraising story. Here are 2 ways for finding a quote for your story:
#1 A great quote will tap into the emotion of the person’s conflict. What were they feeling and why were they feeling that way? Listen for a quote that captures this emotion and lead with it. The Canadian Women’s Foundation impact story uses this technique.
#2 Find a quote that captures the person’s essence. Are they really optimistic? Have they experience great change? Do they feel grateful? Listen for quotes that speak to this and use it at the beginning of the story. The Meals on Wheels Chicago Annual Report story uses this technique.
These are two tips for finding quotes to use at the beginning of your story.
Leave comment below – which one of these techniques would you like to try using in your next story?
Great tip- I’m going to try this for my next post. And I’m going to read about starting with a question now!
Love this tip (and the one about leading with a question). I’m developing a new website for our nonprofit and am telling stories, but now see the need to tweak their introductions. Thanks, Vanessa.
Dr Ravi Margasahayam says
I am a former NASA Rocket Engineer who has a very compelling story – since I was born in India and came to USA as a 22 year old. I went on to study and made it big in the aerospace world working for Boeing and NASA for 40 years, while traveling the world and inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists. It all started with a movie I saw in 1963 in India – a trigger that said if I become a pilot – I can marry a beautiful girl and go around the world – as portrayed by the movie hero. I was trying to the hero on the silver screen and emulate him.
I am writing this book for kids to inspire and shape them as tomorrows leaders. Not for money. Can you advise me what and where do I start? What 5-10 items I should have in the book that will make it sound like a compelling story – similar to rocket boys – or October sky movie.
Thanks and regards.