How Are You Telling Your Stories?

Are you boring your donors with a lot of facts and statistics or are you telling them a story?   I recently received an appeal letter from a hospital that opened with:
You can only imagine how Kenton felt.  One minute, he was laughing, cheering on the Harlem Globetrotters. The next minute, his life was changed forever.”
Does that make you want to read more?  The story continues by showing us how Kenton suffered a serious stroke and was rushed to this hospital where he received live-saving treatment and then went through several months of rehabilitation before making a full recovery.
If you are making a difference, you have stories to tell
Can you tell a story like that?  If you are making a difference, you can.  Creating stories takes a little more work, but they will help you connect with your donors.  Use stories in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media.
You want to tell a success story.  Show how someone has overcome challenges on their journey to something better.  Make your donors part of the story.  Let them know how with their help, Jamie won’t go to bed hungry again.  Keep your organization in the background.
Client or program recipient stories are best. You’ll need to work with program staff to get these stories.  Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. Share-Your-Story Page | an addition to the fundraiser’s arsenal of tools 
Using people’s names will make your stories more personal.  I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy.  You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything. How to Tell Nonprofit Stories While Respecting Client Confidentiality
You want to use stories often.  I recommend that your newsletters open with a story.  They don’t all have to be client stories.  You can share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. 
Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters.  That’s okay, but instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization.  Perhaps she participated in an afterschool program as a teenager or he has a strong interest in eliminating homelessness.
Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. You can use the same stories in different channels.
Tell a story in an instant with a photo
Your donors are busy, but you can capture their attention an instant with a great photo. A photo of your executive director receiving an award is not very compelling. Use photos of your programs in action.  
I know confidentiality issues are going to come up again.  People making a trip to your food pantry probably won’t want their pictures taken, but you can share photos of volunteers serving food or stocking shelves.
A great new trend is postcard annual reports, which are filled with photos and a small amount of text.
If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. Sharing photos is a good way to connect.
I also recommend creating a photo bank, and be sure to use high-quality pictures.


Highlight your work with a video
Create a video to show your program in action, share an interview, or give a behind the scenes look your at organization.  Make your videos short and high quality.  If you are interviewing someone, be sure that person is good on camera.

Connect with your donors by sharing a story.  How are you telling your stories?
Here’s another resource to help you with your stories. 


Photo by UNE Photos via Flickr
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3 thoughts on “How Are You Telling Your Stories?

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