You have no dramatic stories to tell? You’re looking at it wrong!

We don’t have any dramatic stories to tell! How can we tell great stories?

We don’t work with babies or puppies! We have no way to be emotional.

Have you heard or said things like this?

It’s flat-out wrong.

If you have no drama or emotion to share with donors, it’s because you’re making one (or both) of these mistakes:

1. You’re looking at processes, not outcomes

Let’s say your organization works to advocate for low-income housing in your community. What you do: Make phone calls. Write emails. Publish studies. Attend meetings. Nope: No drama!

But that stuff is the process you go through to attain the outcome, which is people who might have been homeless having homes. That’s dramatic. That’s the story you need to tell!

If you think the fact that your donors are giving unrestricted gifts that largely fund overhead means you can’t talk about the outcomes of your programs, you aren’t thinking clearly! Your donors need — and deserve — to hear the stories of your outcomes. They don’t care about your processes, nor should they.

2. You assume life vs. death is the only drama that people care about

Relatively few nonprofits can legitimately claim that their work directly saves lives. The rest of us participate in other kinds of drama.

Arts and cultural organizations: Nobody is going to die if the show doesn’t go on. But something important will be lost; something that deeply affects the hearts, souls, and minds, culture, and legacy of your community. Yes, it really matters, and matters a lot!

Education: People will survive without what you teach. But what is the cost to them and to society if they don’t learn it?

A lot of organizations that help people in need don’t directly save lives; they make lives better. But the difference may be dramatic and heart-rending.

Find the drama. It’s there if you look!


Comments

2 responses to “You have no dramatic stories to tell? You’re looking at it wrong!”

  1. Great post Jeff. I also remind our clients that stories won’t come find them at their desks. You need to go talk to people–program staff, donors, recipients of service. Ask them why this work matters to them. Ask them to share a memorable moment. And, if you’re too busy to do that, outsource this task to a great writer to build you a bank of stories. Couldn’t agree more that EVERY organization has them.

  2. Great post Jeff. I also remind our clients that stories won’t come find them at their desks. You need to go talk to people–program staff, donors, recipients of service. Ask them why this work matters to them. Ask them to share a memorable moment. And, if you’re too busy to do that, outsource this task to a great writer to build you a bank of stories. Couldn’t agree more that EVERY organization has them.

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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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