Successful year-end fundraising campaigns don’t happen by accident. Year-end fundraising campaigns that meet their goals happen as a result of good planning and excellent project management. But year-end fundraising campaigns that exceed their goals happen because there is a compelling story behind them. One that draws donors into the campaign, engages them with an issue, and shows them how making a donation can make a difference. It’s not enough to rely on the urgency of the December 31st tax receipt deadline. Your campaign must have narrative and strong messaging behind it.
In this post, you’ll learn why storytelling is a key component of your year-end fundraising campaign and how to start planning the storytelling aspects of your campaign today.
Storytelling for Fundraising – It’s a Non-negotiable
At the heart of every fundraising campaign are compelling reasons why donors should give. During the month of December, it can be easy to lean on reasons like “it’s the holiday season,” or “get a year-end tax receipt.” For some portion of your donor audience, those reasons will be enough to prompt a gift. The problem with them is that they are very surface level and they don’t speak the heart of your non-profit’s impact or mission. Donors care about how they are helping the people you help. The best way to help them understand that is through storytelling.
My basic definition of story is that it’s a series of facts told with emotions and details. I see a lot of non-profit fundraising appeals that are exceptionally good at recounting the facts. Someone had a problem, they found a service, they access the service, the problem got better. What makes that a story (and frankly, compelling) are the emotions and details that surround the facts. They bring the story to life for someone and make it real.
No matter what you are fundraising for during year-end fundraising, you need at least one story for support your compelling reasons for giving.
Map Out the Basics of Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign
Before you can start to work on stories for your year-end fundraising campaign, you must map out the basics of your campaign. This will help you focus on your most important goal(s) for the campaign and align all of your decisions to your goals. I find that approaching campaign planning this way helps non-profits stay focused during the campaign and find that all important consistency in messaging.
Here’s the basic information you need about your year-end fundraising campaign:
- Timeline – Including the cultivation phase and the asking phase of the campaign
- Goal – Could be overall amount raised, number of gifts, number of new donors, etc
- Key message(s) – These are the 1 to 5 key points you want to get across during your campaign to inspire giving. If you need help figuring out your key messages, check out this post I wrote on the Network for Good blog.
- Channels – This includes your channels for pre-campaign communication and asking.
That’s a short list but it really is the most essential information you need to have nailed down for your year-end fundraising campaign.
Use Your Messaging to Figure Out Your Non-Profit’s Stories
When it comes to telling stories in fundraising campaigns, non-profits tend to take one of two approaches. 1) They work with what they already have in their story bank and in some cases force the fit for the messaging. 2) they proactively sources stories that work with the campaign messaging. You don’t want to slap any old story into your campaign. You want the best one. Therefore, the second option is your best bet for a strong, cohesive campaign.
To start, you’ll want to look at your messages for your campaign. You’re going to brainstorm a couple of lists to understand your story options. First, brainstorm a list of programs or services that can best highlight your message. Next, brainstorm a list of people who can best communicate the message. The people can be donors, volunteers, board members, staff members, or beneficiaries of the work.
Next, if you have a story or content bank, review what you’ve already got against what you brainstormed. You may have the perfect story on hand already.
If you don’t have a story on hand, don’t stress out! Your next step is to begin proactively sourcing great stories that work with your messages. Here are three of my best tips for finding stories to tell. And if you want to ask your community for stories, check out this tutorial.
How to Use Stories in a Successful Year-End Fundraising Campaign
You’ve sources your stories. Next it’s time to put your stories to work in your year-end fundraising campaign. How you do this will be determined by what channels you plan to use for fundraising and communications. Here’s what I find help to do at this stage:
- Make a list of all the channels you plan to use for fundraising and communications
- Make notes about the type of content you’ll need (i.e. video, text, graphics, photos, etc)
- Build an asset list of what you need to create for the campaign
- Search your files to see if you have some content already created that works for your asset list
- Create what needs to be created from scratch for the asset list
This is your roadmap to having everything you need organized and ready to go for your successful year-end campaign. It doesn’t have to be complicated! In fact, keeping your strategy simple and leveraging a few key assets and stories is often best. This will lighten your workload and help you avoid the last minute scramble.