The key — and often missing — ingredient in nonprofit stories

How often have you read a fundraising message that included a “story” like this?

Everything is going great for “Jim.” He used to struggle with alcoholism, but ever since he came to Awesome Charity, he’s been sober, and loving his life.

It has the form and appearance of a story, but it’s not really a story at all.

That’s because a real story — the kind that sinks into the heart and mind and stirs people to action — features conflict.

The Storytelling Non-Profit blog, at C Is For Conflict. And isn’t:

… in non-profit stories … the conflict is quickly rushed through and sometimes not even discussed. We are introduced to a character. In one sentence we are told what that character’s problem was. Then we are plunged in to the resolution of that story and are told how great the non-profit and its services are to have solved this person’s problem. Then we are asked for money.

In psychological terms, a “story” like that is the equivalent of an intentional walk. That’s a baseball metaphor, and it means purposely avoiding action.

A fundraising story should be about someone who is in a bad situation. And the resolution should be in the hands of the donor — not yet in the story itself!

In a report-back story, such as a newsletter article, you tell a complete story, with conflict and resolution. And you credit the donor with making the resolution possible.

The key point for fundraisers is this: If you want to engage donors with stories, you must have conflict, trouble, problems, brokenness. We aren’t telling happy bedtime stories. We are trying to change the world by moving donors to action.


Comments

2 responses to “The key — and often missing — ingredient in nonprofit stories”

  1. So true. If the “story” presented has no conflict and appears to have been easily resolved, then there is no opportunity for the donor to be a hero and help.

  2. So true. If the “story” presented has no conflict and appears to have been easily resolved, then there is no opportunity for the donor to be a hero and help.

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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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