“Most giving is 80% emotion and 20% rational and the best way to get someone’s emotions is to tell a story”
according to Giving USA 2017.
Storytelling is an ancient way of connecting with people and passing down culture. When it comes to connecting with your donors – whether you’re working on an auction or not – storytelling is one of the best ways to let them know exactly how their support helps people and how they can make a difference.
Statistics are nice. The facts and figures give donors justification for their contributions. But facts and figures don’t always paint a clear picture. Stories set a scene, introduce characters, show conflict, and, often, find resolutions. Most people don’t remember facts such as a donor earning $100K -$200K gives on average $5,892 or 3.92% to charitable organizations. But people remember stories.
Organizations have stories to tell around every corner. Getting those stories out to donors can move the needle on your organization’s fundraising. Look for the characters in your organization. Schools planning auctions or fundraising events have never-ending material when it comes to stories. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to give to John Doe School’s new athletic facility campaign if you knew the story of its star basketball player who writes letters to a former star basketball player who fell on hard times and end up in jail. A school program that promotes such compassion and understanding moves donors, specially if they introduce programs like the Precalculus assistance to the kids. The story moves a building campaign from an obligatory donation for parents to one that makes a donor feel like they, too, are making a difference.
So, how do you find stories? Become a reporter, a novelist or a movie director. Look for sources everywhere, scout out good characters and talk to them. Ask them what do they love about your organization and how has it touched them. People love to tell their own stories when asked. Look for scenes where people are doing interesting things. Wonder why there is always noise come from the second-grade classroom down the hall in your school? If you stop in to visit a few times you might discover that students are building towers out of Legos to learn about math and are planning to hatch chick eggs. No wonder there is so much noise in there.
If you were the development director or fundraising organizer for UNLV’s College of Engineering, you bet you’d be telling the story of 7-year-old Hailey Dawson who threw out the first pitch of the fourth game in the World Series thanks to a prosthetic hand created on a 3-D printer by engineering students. Read Hailey’s story here. Hailey’s story is emotional, full of character, has action and a happy ending.
Stories also bring a big campaign down from figures to a single person. It seems overwhelming to some donors to help the millions of children starving around the world, but if they meet a 9-year-old boy in your story, they feel a connection. Helping that boy seems much more feasible for many donors.
You can even tell stories with auctions. Instead of just sending out automated emails reminding donors to bid on items, tell them a quick story:
For example: “The items in this auction will mean a new opportunity for our clients. It will help purchase racing wheelchairs which will allow Jane and John to race each other for the first time in their lives.”
Pictures and video also tell wonderful stories. Include as many of them in your stories as you can. Social media capitalizes on our desire for video and you can shoot them with your phone. Pull out your phone when events are happening. Shoot some video and create a great story for your upcoming event.