4 Storytelling Tips from a Master Nonprofit Storyteller

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Everyone loves a good story—your donors included! A well-told story will connect your donors to your mission, inspire them to give, and keep them engaged in the future. Tell the best-possible stories with these tips from Rachel Muir, CFRE, who helps nonprofit fundraisers all around the country find and create unique stories.

Storytelling Tip: Remember that fundraising is all about empathy

People give to other people, not to organizations or causes. That may feel like a blow to your ego (don’t worry! Your nonprofit is doing necessary work), but it’s actually great news. Trying to build an emotional connection between a donor and a nonprofit organization is hard. Building an emotional connection between a donor and another person is way easier.

Helping your donors empathize with the people who benefit from your programming is a powerful way to inspire them to donate. When you tell your stories, use language that helps your donors put themselves in your clients’ shoes. Talk about your clients’ emotions, their struggles and successes, and how donors can help others just like them.

Storytelling Tip: Don’t be afraid to get emotional

During her presentation, Rachel shared a great quote from Jeff Brooks. “Like it or not, great fundraising is bursting with emotion,” he said. “Using emotion in your fundraising is no more unethical than using oxygen to breathe.”

If you’re worried about using emotions in your fundraising, don’t be! Humans are emotional creatures. We want to feel things. That’s why we read inspiring books, watch sad movies, and are suckers for a feel-good YouTube video. A donor’s decision to give is an emotional one. Appeal to those emotions if you want them to donate!

Storytelling Tip: Catch donors’ attention with a provocative opening

There’s a time and a place for a slow burn, but nonprofit stories aren’t it. You’re competing for your donors’ attention, and a provocative opening is the best way to win. Use an attention-grabbing opening sentence or paragraph that will intrigue donors enough that they’ll continue reading. Ask a hard question, introduce a sympathetic character, jump into the middle of a story, include an evocative photo—whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s compelling enough that donors automatically keep reading.

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue is a nonprofit that excels at telling compelling stories. Check out this blog post for storytelling tips from one of their best appeals.

Storytelling Tip: Write at a sixth-grade reading level

Leave your long words and complex sentence structures at the door! The best way to ensure your donors read and absorb your stories is to use simple language. Writing at a sixth-grade reading level will help you connect with and inspire your donors.

This is because using simple language helps your donors connect with the characters and emotions in the story. When donors spend less brainpower processing the words you use to tell your stories, they have more brainpower to devote to identifying with the people and circumstances you describe. Don’t try to impress your high school English teacher with your stories! Keep it simple and focus on the content rather than your syntax. You’ll be much more effective!

Watch Rachel’s webinar for more storytelling tips (and tons of examples)

Rachel’s complete webinar, Storytelling for Better Fundraising, is available to view on demand! Grab a pen and paper, settle in, and learn even more great ways to share your stories. Her session also includes examples of great nonprofit stories that will inspire you.  

Looking for more resources?

Download Qgiv’s Nonprofit Storytelling eBook for tons of tips and examples on telling your organization’s story.

Nonprofit Storytelling eBook

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