by Angela White
Storytelling plays a powerful role in communicating your mission to donors. Through stories, you share your institutional history, values, and priorities — creating a connection between you, your institution, and your donors.
Storytelling allows you to make your work real for donors, showing them the impact that their gift can have on the lives of others. Through a well-crafted narrative, donors can feel the emotion inherent in your mission and become more engaged in fulfilling your mission.
While metrics are important to demonstrate the depth and scope of your work, sharing metrics is more impactful when shared in conjunction with a story that brings the numbers to life. Telling donors that thousands of children go hungry every day is less impactful than sharing a first-person account of a family who has experienced food insecurity and then sharing metrics that illustrate the depth and breadth of the problem.
These five key steps will help you use storytelling effectively in communicating with your donors:
1. Listen to donors’ stories first, before telling your own story.
• Donors’ stories will help you understand their priorities and interests in your institution – and the gaps in knowledge or perceptions to be addressed through enhanced communication.
• Donor stories can also become excellent personal testimonies to be woven into your institutional storytelling to share examples of the impact of giving and volunteering.
2. Use storytelling in your fundraising conversations and communications.
• Incorporate stories into your donor visits to bring the institution to life for donors when you visit with them.
• Capture the reader’s attention in emails, newsletters, appeal letters, etc. to get them to read further, click for more information, and ultimately move them to action.
3. Let stories open the door to specific donor constituencies.
• Identify your targeted constituent groups and then create stories that help you reach out to these groups and increase their engagement with your institution.
• Use donor testimonials to model philanthropic behavior for each targeted constituency so that the the constituents can see themselves in the story and be motivated to take action.
4. Create a protocol for gathering stories and make this a priority within your institution.
• Identify those individuals, both staff and volunteers, who can gather the stories for your institution. This is an excellent role for volunteers and a valuable way to cultivate donor relationships.
• Ask open ended questions in the spirit of appreciative inquiry to draw out of the storyteller the most meaningful experiences that will give the story inspiration.
5. Make certain your stories help reinforce your institutional priorities.
• Make certain that your stories reinforce who you are as an institution and reflect your institutional values.
• Review your stories to make certain that they reflect your impact and illustrate how donors’ gifts make a difference at your institution.
Employ these five keys to storytelling to bring your mission to life for your donors to increase their engagement with your institution and make your fundraising efforts more effective.