People give money and get involved with nonprofits because they feel compelled to make a difference. Connection to your cause and your work is at the heart of every action an individual takes with your nonprofit. You want to connect with prospective donors to compel them to care about your organization.

The most powerful tool you have to build this connection with prospective donors is storytelling.

Stories make your work human. Stories give us the power to connect emotionally on our shared values—values that allow individuals to unite in action despite different experiences and perspectives. Stories connect donors to the beneficiaries that are benefiting from their contribution, while showcasing the pressing need for your work.

Luckily, most nonprofits have  a huge wealth of stories to tell. Most importantly, you can tell the stories of the people who benefit from your work. How did your organization improve the lives of specific individuals? How do donations make an impact?  

You can also tell the stories of the people who work for or volunteer for your team—why do they care? Why are they involved? And you should even use the stories of your donors to show prospects how and why someone began giving to your organization.

All of the outreach you do should tell a story, but storytelling doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out ordeal.  Stories can be simple and easy to tell. Telling stories is a fundamental part of being human!

To make a story usable and useful for your nonprofit, there’s a simple formula you can use to create stories. Share a problem someone faced, the action they took in response, and the outcome that followed.

Here are a few examples:

  •      “I ended up in a homeless shelter and was desperately worried about my kids’ happiness. I decided to take them to a Playtime Project play night after hearing about it from a fellow parent. Now, my kids are happier and calmer after getting time every week to just be a kid.”
  •      “I want to donate 10% of my income to important causes, but I don’t know what organizations need it most or who will use it responsibly so I give to my local United Way. They are great shepherds of my donations, working to lift up whole communities.

Get started with storytelling by asking everyone involved with your organization to share their story. Whether you have team members talk to beneficiaries one-on-one or you send an email to all donors asking them to complete a survey, it’s easy to ask for stories and people naturally want to share theirs.  

Once you collect stories, use them everywhere.

  •      Use different email senders for fundraising emails and have every author share a story about themselves before they make an ask.
  •      Take short videos on your phone to share on social media or make slightly more professional ones to create content for your website.
  •      Don’t think of newsletters as update bulletins, but as opportunities to share stories.
  •      Write blogs spotlighting individuals – it’s quick and easy content for you to produce and it’s super compelling and interesting.
  •      Tell stories in big campaigns you launch or join such as Giving Tuesday.

As you tell stories, it’s crucial that you connect each story to an action people can take.  By combining action with connection, storytelling will become the most powerful tool in your fundraising toolbox. As it should be—it’s the most human!