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The Power of a Good Story

Pick up any fundraising direct mail, and you’ll be presented with an array of factoids, infographics, and pleas for donations. Often, the storytelling feels like mundane data or bullet points that summarize the goals of a campaign. But sometimes you discover a story that moves you, that compels you to not only open your heart but your wallet, too. It’s those stories, the ones filled with human emotion and character, that leave you ready to act.

As a result, relying on a page in your direct mail that illustrates one bold statistic after another isn’t going to motivate your prospective donors. You’ll be more successful if you can tell a story that transforms those abstract numbers and facts into tangible, emotional experiences. According to Judd Plattenburg, owner and CEO of Oregon, “The fundraisers we’re more apt to give to, we understand them. And usually, we understand them through a good story.”

Storytelling helps build an important connection between your donors and your organization’s cause. When donors learn about your cause through personal, real-life stories that are attached to names and faces, or tied to places or events, you can make the need to give feel personal and more urgent because of human emotions. In fact, according to famed cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, “People remember stories 22 times better than facts alone.”

What’s required for a good story? Character, conflict, journey, and resolution. Your character should be someone with whom your donors can find empathy—a person who has benefited from your cause, a volunteer, or the community, for example. Presenting the conflict engages your donors while the journey toward resolving that conflict keeps them invested. Remember, a good story leads to a resolution that inspires action and leads back to your fundraising goal.

In fundraising, the power of a good story can’t be overstated. Stories offer the unique opportunity to humanize your organization’s cause by turning statistics into relatable human experiences that donors care about. When you focus on the important elements of storytelling, you can engage with your audience in a meaningful way. A good story like Daybreak offers in their fundraising campaigns, shares the impact of contributions and connects donors directly to a cause they support.

Now that you know the power of storytelling, how do you develop a story that grabs the attention of your donors and motivates them to act? We’ll cover that next month in Part Two, where we’ll dive into developing your own compelling stories. Don’t miss it!