Why you need stories to raise funds

Every known culture tells stories. This is the way we make sense of the world and our place in it. This is also why you need stories to raise funds for your mission.

When I joined David Oaks’ end-of-year fundraising accelerator, David and I were experimenting. We worked with eight small organizations and walked them through their end-of-year fundraising. None of these organizations had done year-end campaigns before, and every one of them did better than they’d ever done. Some saw wild success, but others still struggled. One HUGE difference between the ones who got funded and those who didn’t was this:

Those who consistently told compelling stories raised more funds. 

Why are stories such an essential part of a successful fundraising strategy? Storytelling is like a multi-function tool. Stories do so much! Here are a few key reasons we need to tell stories:

  • Stories help us connect – When you listen to a story, your brainwaves  actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. 
  • Research shows compelling stories cause our brains to release oxytocin, increase empathy, and have the power to affect our behaviors.
  • Stories help us remember who we are and what we’re about. Donors give to their values. Telling stories that reflect those values help donors make good decisions about whether you’re a good match for them. 
  • Stories reveal truths – your storytelling can help people see the world in a new way. Shift perspectives, overcome prejudices.
  • Stories offer dignity and context for beneficiaries, and give them a voice.
  • Stories put our critical minds aside for a moment, and we willingly enter into the narrative. We try to find ourselves in the story. 
  • Stories give us context to make sense of all those things.

Stories make a difference in your fundraising

All through the donor journey, stories help draw potential donors in and help them get to know, like, and trust you. You don’t just “need a story” to fill a space in your newsletter. You need a story to show donors what they can accomplish by giving to your mission. Where do they fit in this story? They can reflect their values, glorify God, ease suffering, and experience deep personal satisfaction by stepping into this story and playing an active role.

Use these questions to think about stories you might tell:

  • What are some of the questions people ask about what you do and why you do it?
  • What are some misconceptions people have?
  • What do you wish people knew?
  • What stories can you tell to donors to help them connect to the hands-on work (specially if your mission is far away, and they are not likely to ever experience it personally)?

I’m convinced one of the most powerful helps for us to tell better stories is to think about why we tell stories in the first place! 

I started Mission Writers to help missionaries, ministries, and nonprofits tell powerful and effective stories that inspire action. If you need help with stories, check out Mission Writers, or get contact me directly.

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