Powerful storytelling is the lifeblood of a nonprofit’s fundraising campaign success. Without a great story to share, it is virtually impossible to effectively draw an emotional connection between prospective donors and your cause.
What is the relationship between emotion and fundraising? Simply put, emotion is the fuel that ignites motivation—motivation to volunteer, advocate, sponsor, or give. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to articulate your cause impact to donors through 5 fundamentals of great nonprofit storytelling.
Have you ever cried for a character in a novel or a movie?
An empathetic character (hero/protagonist) is the most important element in your story. Whether your cause supports human services, community development, animals, the environment, health, education, or the arts, your story should focus on authentic, real-life circumstances rather than on your organization.
Whenever possible, allow your character to tell his/her own story. First person narrative tends to be more intimate and personal than a third person perspective because it allows the audience to experience the character’s world through his/her own voice. Be sure to include details about your character’s background, hopes, and dreams to make him/her believable and relatable to your audience.
Can you relate to a personal struggle or suffering that you haven’t experienced first-hand?
As with any great story, your character is facing an overwhelming life challenge without sufficient resources to overcome his/her crisis. While your audience may not be able to identify with the specific challenge your character is facing, the emotional quality of your storyline will determine whether or not your audience will empathize with your character through the lens of their own experience with adversity.
Describe your character’s challenge in descriptive terms that paint a clear picture of the problem and how it impacts his/her life on a daily basis. Explain how your audience’s active participation can help your character resolve his challenge and meet his (and your) goals.
Are you more likely to form an emotional connection through the human experience or raw data?
Your ability (or inability) to build a strong emotional connection between your audience, your character, and your cause can directly impact your fundraising outcome—be it positive or negative. A Wharton – University of Pennsylvania study cites that appealing to donors’ hearts yields a higher level of giving than appealing to their heads.
Connecting and engaging with your audience requires that you know them intimately—including their motivations, passions, habits, and fears. If you’ve created audience personas, you already have detailed knowledge of what makes your audience tick. If you haven’t created audience personas yet, it’s well worth taking the time to do so before crafting your story and launching your next fundraising campaign.
It’s also worth mentioning that words are not the only way to convey a great story. Visual storytelling through pictures and video can also inspire and elicit a deep emotional connection. According to data provided by HubSpot, 90 percent of information received by the brain is visual, and visual images are processed 60,000x faster by the brain than text.
What drives you to action when you’re emotionally invested in a cause?
You’ve introduced your character and outlined the challenges he/she faces. As a result, your audience is inspired, engaged, and emotionally connected to your character’s story. They’re motivated to act on behalf of your character and others facing the same challenge. Now what?
An emotional connection alone won't help you meet your fundraising goals. Those emotions must now be converted into action. Volunteer. Advocate. Sponsor. Donate.
Tie your character’s story directly to your cause’s core message while reinforcing your mission, vision, and values. Use language that creates a sense of urgency as you outline clear, simple steps for your audience to take immediate action. Add a donation button to your landing page, as well as social sharing buttons so your donors can encourage their friends and followers on social media to join them in supporting your cause.
How do you determine which charities you'll donate to?
Today’s prospective donors are high information givers. They also have high expectations that their money will be used to bring about positive change. According to a recent Root Cause study, 72 percent of donors who regularly or sometimes give to charities actively seek information about causes and nonprofits. You can demonstrate that your nonprofit is delivering on its promises by providing success stories, impact statements, and annual reports via website links.
And never underestimate the power of a simple ‘thank you’. Gratitude goes a long way in building donor loyalty and retention. Always follow up with your donors in a timely manner to let them know how their donation was used to transform lives and further your organization’s mission.
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