How Storytelling Can Help Personalize Donor Communications
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By Rick Elmore
Storytelling can entertain, educate and entice people to act. Nonprofits have more stories at their fingertips than any other organization. Those that send personalized communications to donors see a greater response, and there is no better way to personalize an appeal, acknowledgment or short message than with an inspiring story. Nonprofits that create an internal storytelling culture can excite staff and volunteers, entice new supporters, strengthen relationships with donors, and raise more funds.
Why Is Storytelling Vital to Donor Communications?
Emotion draws greater attention than statistics, yet nonprofits continue to share facts and figures whenever they can. Which do you find more compelling?
- "Maja carried her child to the hospital in her arms and waited for hours before seeing a nurse. When she found the Human Development Foundation, her children saw a doctor within minutes of arriving at the doctor's office."
- "The Human Development Foundation sees more than 100,000 children every year."
If you're like most people, you're captivated by Maja's story and want to hear more.
Nonprofits that regularly share powerful stories will notice an increase in new donors and watch relationships with current donors flourish. Social media has increased the need for content and those with the most and best stories get noticed.
Which Tales Gain the Most Traction?
The hero's journey is a well-known and popular writing style. Blockbuster series, like "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" help audiences feel like they're living in the main character's shoes. Nonprofit stories can have the same effect. Donors can follow the hero as they face opposition, then connect with your nonprofit and see an immediate change in their lives. Nonprofits that can connect the donors' gifts to these stories of growth and atonement can further strengthen supporters' interest and desire to help.
While nonprofits can tell these stories through email or appeal letters, they don't have to be lengthy to have the desired effect.
First-person donor testimonials and thank-you cards from beneficiaries can also gain traction. Donors questioning whether they should give can hear from other donors and volunteers about how they saw the immediate impact of their gift and how they were treated by the organization. Beneficiary thank-you messages that share how donations changed their lives give supporters a real person to support. In a world of constant online communication, supporters who receive these thank-you cards in the mail are less likely to ignore them.
How Can Nonprofits Create a Storytelling Culture?
Staff and volunteers who closely interact with beneficiaries may not realize how many stories they hear and see every day. It's easy to forget what inspired you to join the organization in the first place. By regularly contacting staff and volunteers to learn more about what they saw and did that week, you have a better chance of getting funny, sad and inspiring tales for your donor communications.
Adding a page to your website or online donation form where donors can leave testimonials can also afford you several chances to find an inspirational quote to share on Facebook. Educate your board of directors and staff on the importance of sharing these stories. Include storytelling as a vital activity during all internal meetings and keep track of each of these stories for future use.
What's the Next Step?
As you begin to create a storytelling culture and find yourself inundated with exciting stories, you'll have to find the best way to share them with your supporters. Fundraising campaigns, websites and newsletters are excellent places to share long-form stories that show real-world impact.
Organizations can use live or online events as a chance for beneficiaries to tell their stories in person or with a video interview. Your nonprofit can also gain donors' attention with social media posts and personalized cards sent in the mail. Regardless of how you do it, storytelling can help your nonprofit connect with donors through personalized storytelling that tugs on their hearts and purse strings.