The best fundraising stories are the vivid ones

You know that telling stories is good practice in fundraising. Did you know that one particular type of story works best?

As reported at the Neuromarketing blog, Vivid Stories Change Donor Behavior.

In a study, subjects were told various types of information, then asked to do altruistic actions, like giving to charity. The result:

The subjects who were primed with more specific thoughts about death (the vivid apartment fire) saw an increase in altruism compared to the control group even if the need was low.

If your cause is a matter of life and death, you should be telling stories of life and death.

Maybe your cause isn’t a matter of life and death — maybe you’re an arts organization, and you can’t really make the claim that your work saves lives. In that case, you should tell as vivid and dramatic stories as you possibly can.

Experienced fundraising writers have known (or at least suspected) this for a long time. Nice to have the scientists “discover” it.


Comments

8 responses to “The best fundraising stories are the vivid ones”

  1. Great post Jeff. It’s always gratifying to find scientific support for what testing (and gut instinct) tell us.
    Vivid detail makes a story more believable, and enables the donor to connect emotionally with the subject of the story – and thereby the beneficiary of the non-profit in question.

  2. Great post Jeff. It’s always gratifying to find scientific support for what testing (and gut instinct) tell us.
    Vivid detail makes a story more believable, and enables the donor to connect emotionally with the subject of the story – and thereby the beneficiary of the non-profit in question.

  3. Hey Jeff, I have been a fan of this blog for years and it has really improved my communications with my donors – thank you for providing this free resource for all of us. I am leaving my position as a fundraiser in a few weeks to take a job teaching high school history in the city where I live.
    I love my donors, I wouldn’t say that they *love* me back, but they’re used to hearing from me and I think they like me – I’ve been with the organization for 2 1/2 years, write them handwritten notes, send them articles I think might interest them, photo gifts at Christmastime etc. One of my colleagues will be taking over my portfolio.
    I was wondering if you could please advise me on the most donor-centered way to let my donors know about my departure and introduce my colleague as their new contact with the organization. I want to get it right for my donors. I know that my departure will not be as interesting to them as it is to me, so I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but I shouldn’t just vanish in the night, either…right?
    Maybe something like, “It’s been so nice working with you over the years, the best part of my job was that it brought me in contact with caring people including you. I’m leaving to…..you can expect to hear from my colleague John Doe….I know that you will continue to make the world a better place through your continued giving to x organization, thank you for everything.”
    Is that donor-centered? I feel like it could be better, but I’m not sure how…if there’s anyway you can help me figure this out I’d be really grateful; I understand if not though!

  4. Hey Jeff, I have been a fan of this blog for years and it has really improved my communications with my donors – thank you for providing this free resource for all of us. I am leaving my position as a fundraiser in a few weeks to take a job teaching high school history in the city where I live.
    I love my donors, I wouldn’t say that they *love* me back, but they’re used to hearing from me and I think they like me – I’ve been with the organization for 2 1/2 years, write them handwritten notes, send them articles I think might interest them, photo gifts at Christmastime etc. One of my colleagues will be taking over my portfolio.
    I was wondering if you could please advise me on the most donor-centered way to let my donors know about my departure and introduce my colleague as their new contact with the organization. I want to get it right for my donors. I know that my departure will not be as interesting to them as it is to me, so I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but I shouldn’t just vanish in the night, either…right?
    Maybe something like, “It’s been so nice working with you over the years, the best part of my job was that it brought me in contact with caring people including you. I’m leaving to…..you can expect to hear from my colleague John Doe….I know that you will continue to make the world a better place through your continued giving to x organization, thank you for everything.”
    Is that donor-centered? I feel like it could be better, but I’m not sure how…if there’s anyway you can help me figure this out I’d be really grateful; I understand if not though!

  5. Make your final communication with your donors all about the person who’s replacing you. “I’d like to tell you about Jonathan Example. He’s a great guy and you’ll enjoy know him.” Only in passing talk about yourself. Those who want to know more will ask.

  6. Make your final communication with your donors all about the person who’s replacing you. “I’d like to tell you about Jonathan Example. He’s a great guy and you’ll enjoy know him.” Only in passing talk about yourself. Those who want to know more will ask.

  7. I agree – the more dramatic and realistic the story the more people would be willing to give.

  8. I agree – the more dramatic and realistic the story the more people would be willing to give.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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