Giving Tuesday is just around the corner — and with it, the beginning of giving season. North Americans give more generously throughout December than in any other month, which makes the last third of the year prime fundraising time for Canadian and US charities.
For charities looking to maximize giving season donations, the single most important question behind any campaign is: How do we engage our supporters and broaden our donor base?
There are many answers to this question, but let’s focus on one:
Tell a good story that helps your supporters connect to your charity and your cause.
It’s actually easier than you think! Follow these four tips, and you’re well on your way.
1. Show, Don’t Tell
Mark Twain once said it, and it still rings true. But what does “show, don’t tell” really mean?
It means showcasing your work and its impact on the world through tangible stories. For example, instead of informing your supporters about the details of your successful program, tell the story of a person who benefited from it. Or maybe let a volunteer or staff member involved in the program describe the real-world change they’ve seen through their work.
Bringing your supporters as close as possible to what you do on a daily basis, will help them to emotionally connect with your organization. Numerous studies have proved that genuine, transparent storytelling is a powerful tool in engaging supporters — with this Rockefeller Foundation study being one of the latest.
2. Make Your Reader the Hero
What that means in a nutshell is: make your supporters the key to the solution. They are making the “save the day” decision and your charity simply comes alongside them.
Our fundraising expert Brady Josephson said it perfectly in his blog post on how better storytelling leads to more revenue for charities:
“There’s a slight difference between your organization changing the world and it not being possible without the support of donors and donors changing the world by giving to and through you. ...It’s about using “you” language instead of “we” language. It’s thinking about why donors give to your organization as opposed to why you deliver the programs you do.”
If you want to learn more about donor engagement through stories, consider reading “Winning the Story Wars” by Jonah Sachs. Sachs examines how truly great marketing calls customers or donors on an adventure where they are “the hero” and you take on the role of “mentor” in helping them on their quest.
To successfully communicate with your supporters you need to know your audience and you need to get “into their heads”. That means, when you’re brainstorming story ideas, make sure you ask yourself…
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- What kind of stories inspire my supporters?
- How can I tell them what real-world impact their support had?
- How can I acknowledge and thank them for their support in a meaningful way?
3. Ask - And Be Clear About It
Asking people outright for support is hard but necessary to rally donations for your cause! Telling a great story is a wonderful start, but you have to make sure you make it easy for supporters to take action after they’ve been inspired by what you just told them. Here are two considerations to keep in mind when making your ask:
- Be clear about your ask. Do you want your supporters to donate? Fundraise? Sign a petition? Make sure to communicate clearly what you want them to do.
- Make it easy for supporters to act. For example, if you are asking for donations, include a donate button along with your story. If you’re asking people to fundraise for you, offer support in person or through fundraising guides. Whatever your ask is, make sure to empower your supporters to act on their charitable impulse.
It’s important to tell great stories that have an impact on your audience, but it’s equally important to make sure that these stories actually reach your audience. The key to success here is to share your stories widely. There are basically two ways you can achieve a wide distribution of your content:
- Use all of your communication platforms to get the word out, e.g. newsletters, mailouts, your blog, social media channels, emails etc. And make sure you share your stories more than once!
- Make the snowball effect work for you! Online sharing is a powerful catalyst in spreading your content. Ask your supporters to share your story by forwarding emails and links, post to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or share on their personal blog.
Now that you’re an expert in storytelling, don’t be scared of the blank page! Go write your story and inspire your supporters.
Everybody has a story to tell and with a bit of practice, everyone can get good at it.
Here's some more inspiration and advice on how to tell good stories:
- Peer Giving Ideas: Three steps to a better story
- The Guardian: The storytelling secrets charities can learn from Gandalf
- Network for Good: Four tactics for amazing non-profit stories
- The Goodman Center: What all good stories have in common
- Charity Water: Stories
- Huffington Post: Unleash your creativity (it’s up to you)