The power of storytelling, and how to use it in your fundraising

8 April 2021

Storytelling in marketing is the use of a narrative to communicate a message that drives action. It makes the viewer feel something – enough that it’ll inspire them to act on it. 

Have you ever found yourself reading something that you can relate with, to such an extent that it inspires you. That is the influential power of storytelling when done right, because a good story has the power to kick you up from your chair and drive you to take action.   

Acknowledging its power and understanding how it works will help you to make the most out of your fundraising. So let’s learn  how to master this art

1. Be intentional with your story

First things first! In order to create a powerful story you need to have a clear purpose. You need to know what you want your audience to act on, and intentionally develop a narrative around it that is  powerful enough to drive the desired action.  

Before you start developing your narrative you need to ask yourself:

  • WHAT

You need to figure out specifically what you want to talk about. Do you want to explain what you do in general, or would you rather let them know about something more specific such as: A project you are working on, a member of your team or a new fundraising initiative.

Different “whats” will lead to different types of stories, so be very conscious of what you are going to be talking about. 

  • WHY 

Why are you communicating? Or in other words, What is the desired action you want your story to trigger? It is most likely that when fundraising the answer will be to get people to donate, but is not always the case. 

Sometimes for example you are not after donations, but are seeking volunteers. 

So ask yourself, what am I after? It’s only when you identify a clear outcome, that you can start working towards it. 

  • WHO

Lastly but equally important,  who do you want to take action? What does that person’s day to day look like? Why would they engage with you? Once you have a clear understanding on who you are talking to, and what moves them, you can create a narrative they can relate to easily. At the end of the day different audiences are moved by different things, and having a clear vision of your audience is ALWAYS Key for any fundraising endeavour. 

Your answers to these questions will shape your story as much as your approach to the narrative.

2. Use a narrative that fits your brand

Your fundraising brand is your essence, and you need to master it. Think about your NFP as an individual with specific characteristics and your narrative as the way they would talk if they  could. Which type of language would they use? Would it be colloquial, formal, complex or relaxed? Work hard on it, figure out specifically how it would sound and be consistent. 

Once you have a clear narrative that fits your brand, use it to develop your story. With so much evolution around technology the way we tell stories have changed, so you need to find the one that fits and works for you. 

Storytelling has many different forms you can use to evoke emotion in your audience. You can create an audiovisual narrative, develop a podcast, design an infographic or stick to writing down a compelling story and case study. The choice is yours on how you get creative, you don’t have to compromise, there are always ways to mix and match. 

Pro tip: Images are a very powerful tool, it should always be considered in conjunction with other types of narrative such as infographics, or regular written stories.  

3. Be compelling to create empathy.

In order to succeed into triggering a response with your story, you ought to be compelling. You need to develop a story that evokes interest, attention, or admiration in a powerful and irresistible way.

The most compelling stories are the more authentic ones. Don’t be afraid of being bold and passionate. If you love what you do why wouldn’t others?  

4. Tell stories your audience can relate to 

When you are developing your story always keep your intentions in mind, and do it in a way that your audience  will see themselves represented.  People engage more with stories they can relate to, situations they may have been in, things they always wanted to do but never could…

Let’s put this as an example.  If the objective of our narrative is to increase  donations we want them to take action by making a new donation, you can opt to make them the hero of your story, by putting them and their contribution in the center and yourself as the way to make an impact on your cause. 

5. Make them feel

One of the things we cannot overlook is what emotion our story is provoking. It will ALWAYS be one, and the biggest mistake is not being intentional about it. If we are not making people laugh, cry, or even feel interested or intrigued, we will most likely be boring them. 

So be intentional about the feeling you are trying to evoke and make sure that once you are done it comes across your narrative. 

Something crucial to highlight is that, even when we are talking about fundraising for delicate situations, making people feel something, does not mean making them feel sad. 

A story about something that could be sad can be told in a way that brings a smile to people’s faces or makes them laugh. This often can be as compelling and powerful as stories that make them cry. 

6. Avoid the salesly language

You want to drive action and you want them to donate, and you both know it so try to be discrete.  Although the intention may be clear, there is no need to constantly remind your audience of the reason why you are trying to connect with them.

Although you are reaching out to people because you want something from them, it does not make the story  less real. Instead of reminding them constantly on their required action put all your efforts into truly connecting with them by delivering a clear message they can relate to. 

Once you have accomplished writing a compelling story and your audience feel connected they are more likely to seek action without feeling they were made to do so. 

We leave you with two completely different but equally powerful examples of successful storytelling.

 – Every girl counts

 – Give a shit.