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Summer Stories Predict Sunny Fundraising Results

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Storytelling Techniques for Your Fundraising Success

Nonprofit storytelling can be a powerful tool to recruit and motivate donors. Even more than shocking statistics, a story can spur donors to help because it makes the cause real and elicits empathy from potential supporters.

Allison Gauss from Classy.org had some great tips to tap into the power of storytelling.

Components of a Fundraising Story

The Character (Protagonist)

It all starts with a character. The main character gives your donors someone to identify with and care about. This is who they hope for, worry about, fear for, and cheer for. Decide who your character is and put them front and center!


Details are what make your character and story more reliable. Tell your audience something concrete about your character that they will remember.


What does your character need or want? Your character’s efforts to achieve this goal is what moves your story forward.


What is standing in your character’s way?

Villain That Stands In Way

Portray the object standing in your character’s way as a villain. It doesn’t have to be a person, it just needs to be something that your donor can help defeat.


Empower your donor to be part of the story by helping the character reach a happy ending. Tell them what your organization can do with their help.


End with impact! What have you accomplished together? What progress has your character made? Make it clear that the fight isn’t over and their donation is needed to keep going.

Storytelling strategies

Allison Gauss also gives us four ways to present a story to help donors connect with your cause and move them to action.

#1 – Introduce the main character

Choose just one individual. Donors are much more likely to act when given just one individual rather than groups.
Pro Tips
• Offer details like the individual’s name, location, and personal goals (get permission!)
• Let the individual do that talking. Their story will be more impactful when your character tells it in their own words.
• Use pictures or video of the person so your supporters can put a face with a name.

#2 – Begin with a startling fact or statistic

The shock factor is a sure way to get your audience’s attention.
Pro Tips
• Think outside the box for metrics or facts that are so unexpected they demand an explanation.
• Reveal the people and places behind the headlines. Once you have your donors’ attention, give them more details about the situation on the ground.

#3 – Immerse your audience in a moment of conflict

Tell your story in a heart rendering way that makes your donor feel compelled to help.

Pro Tips

• Be descriptive, not dramatic
• Give your audience details like sights, sounds, and smells and let those evoke emotion.
• It’s not enough to convey devastation, show donors what actions you are taking and how they can help.

#4 – Make your cause a quest

Show your donors what you are planning. Show them a timeline of how you are helping. Tell your donors that with them, you are almost at the happy ending.

Pro Tips
• Use a concrete goal, whether it is a cure or a fundraising milestone, to motivate your audience.
• Explain what problems you have solved along the way that make your long-term goals possible.

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Successful Fundraiser of 22 years; Pet owner and lover; triathlete and sportswoman; Gardner; Love to dance; Music a must; Workaholic


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