Mastering the Art of Storytelling
Stories are what give your organization life, personality and meaning; and good storytelling will motivate your supporters to action. What stories does your organization need to be telling right now?
Post Date: Dec 7 2020
Great storytelling isn’t just for parents when it’s time to put the kids to bed — it is one of the most powerful marketing tools your organization can use to find new members, solicit support and raise money.
Stories are what give your organization life, personality and meaning. When you have these, your supporters are able build bonds and connections to your cause that last year after year. It’s just like building a relationship with a real, live person!
So what stories does your organization need to tell? What experience with your cause can you pass along through photos, web pages, fliers or word-of-mouth? What do your stories need to make your supporters feel?
Your stories will spark emotions...
Ideally, your stories will spark emotions. Whether they evoke empathy
for those whose lives are improved by your cause, or excitement for
change on the horizon. An emotional component will improve the odds of
your story being remembered, shared with others and driven to action -
as in purchasing a product from your fundraiser, or volunteering time to
If you haven’t used stories to marketing your organization in the past, now is a great time to start! The holiday season is a time of sharing, connecting, and giving.
And speaking of the year ahead, remember to mark your calendar for Valentine’s Day (February 14th), Easter (April 4th), and Mother’s Day (May 9th). Leverage these feel-good holidays to share your stories to raise funds selling delicious Terri Lynn products!
Why Storytelling for Fundraising Works
Stories are memorable. They stick! When a story is shared by a person or organization, there are images, emotions and decisions that get produced about what was heard. Those images become logged in the listener’s memory bank.
Think about an organization you’ve supported in the past, or even one you’re involved with now. What was a storyline that compelled you to act? How did that story connect with your imagination or feelings?
Stories are the means by which some of the most successful organizations build community. They use them to persuade, inspire, connect, and mobilize action.
A story can be used for an individual fundraising campaign, or to create bigger, broader social change. Successful stories are dynamic and compelling, and prompt an emotional response from listeners, viewers and readers.
Read more on the impact of emotional connections: “The Art of the Ask: How To Make An Emotional Connection with Supporters”
Types of Fundraising Stories
Did you know your organization is full of stories? Some you may already know, and some you might need to track down.
Beyond your history and mission, there are stories woven all throughout your support community, your volunteers, the beneficiaries of your cause or even some of your donors.
Examples of organization stories include:
- Case Studies (that illustrate the success of an event or project)
- Beneficiary Stories
- Volunteer Quotes
- Donor/Supporter Histories (showcasing WHY your donor/supporters choose to give)
- History/Origins of your organization
- Board Member Bios
- Success Stories
- Future-Telling Stories (“If we don’t reach this year’s fundraising goal, here’s what could happen…”)
The lengths and formats of your stories are up to you. They can be long (like a case study) or short (like a testimonial), and be told via email, Facebook post, infographics or videos.
There’s no one right way to tell a story, but there will likely be methods that are more effective than others for your goals and resources.
Start with taking stock of what content you have on hand, and what you can accomplish when it comes to sharing your story with your community. Then, make a list of what you need.
If you’re short on donor stories, for example, reach out to your supporter base and ask if you can share the reasons they’re compelled to give to your cause. You can also survey your volunteers for quotes, ask sponsors for bios, or request a testimonial from recipients of your cause.
Here’s some example language you can use when asking a donor to write a story:
“We’re so grateful for your support, and would love to share your story to encourage others to give, too! What are some of the reasons you choose to give? What is your favorite part about being a member of our organization family? We’d love to hear from you!
Where to Share Your Fundraising Stories
Once you start looking around, you’ll find fundraising stories everywhere. You’ll see them in social media posts, billboards, newsletters and even the local newspaper.
Where you share your story is up to you and your audience. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where do my supporters get their information about my organization?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- Which periodicals/newspapers/magazines do they read?
For example: if your supporter base spends time on social media, Facebook can be an excellent place to post your story with a link to take action. Alternatively, if your supporters typically read the local newspaper, then a PR campaign may be a better bet for getting your story in front of their eyes. And if you have a library of videos to share, you may want to start a YouTube channel focused on your cause.
So the ‘where’ to share your fundraising stories can depend on your organization’s resources and the actions you want supporters to take. If you’re fundraising with a Webstore, for instance, you’ll want to capture your supporters’ attention while they’re online and drive traffic to your fundraising pages with links.
Here’s a note from one Terri Lynn Fundraising customer who selected Facebook as their platform of choice to advertise their event:
Our largest fundraiser, a wine tasting, had to be cancelled so
we knew we needed to step and make some sales. I think the biggest help
was advertising on Facebook. Most members posted on their personal
Facebook page. We had pictures of the order booklet with the prices
And remember that traditional marketing methods work great for storytelling, too. A phone call, a handwritten letter, or a note inside a delivery bag can relay your story with a personal touch. Depending on your supporters’ preferred methods of communication and the availability of volunteers, these methods can bring a lot of success, too:
Honestly, with the pandemic, I was surprised at the success we had this year. We knew we needed to do our annual nut sale to meet our philanthropic commitments, so we put the word out early. Everyone was very generous and the products are of such high quality....they really do sell themselves!
Looking for more story-sharing inspiration? Read our interview with Support Our Vets: An Online Fundraising Success Story
Start Sharing Your Stories
As you begin to think about the stories your organization can tell, remember to tie them back to your mission and the action(s) you want your audience to take. By connecting the two, you’ll find storytelling can be one of your most effective fundraising tools.
To recap, here are the key takeaways for mastering the art of storytelling for fundraisers:
- Your stories can come from donors, volunteers, organizers or beneficiaries.
- Stories should inspire emotion, which builds connections and drives supporters to take action.
- The WAY you tell your story can vary based on your organization’s resources and supporter preferences.
- Remember to link your story to your mission, and inspire people to take action.
And we’d love to hear your stories, too!
If you have news about a recent fundraising success, or a discovery that has helped your organization, we want to hear about it.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share your organization’s success story.
We’ll spread the word to other members of our Terri Lynn family to help trigger their new ideas and cheer one another on, especially as the Spring 2021 fundraising holidays come into view (Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day). Keep us in your story loop!
Ready to start your next fundraiser?
Terri Lynn offers free, contactless online fundraising programs so that your organization can raise money fast.
Get in touch to learn more about achieving fundraising success with Terri Lynn. Our Dedicated Fundraising Group Specialists are here to guide you through the getting-started process, and customize a plan to help you reach (or exceed!) your organization’s fundraising expectations.
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