Why great fundraisers tell unfinished stories

Here’s one of the toughest things in fundraising, a change in the way you tell stories that can dramatically improve results: Tell stories without endings.

It goes against your instincts as a storyteller.

But it works. Because it moves the would-be donor from a passive consumer of the story you tell to an active part of a story you and she tell — and actually live — together.

Here’s a great example from the Bettr Fundraising blog, at How to Tell Unfinished Stories.

Here’s how fundraisers often tell stories:

Lisa was homeless and in dire straits. But thanks to our 4-step program, Lisa is doing great today. Will you please give a gift to help us continue this good work?

That’s nice. But the donor isn’t really needed. It would be so much better to end the story before the resolution:

Lisa is homeless and in dire straits. Will you please give a gift today to help her stay in our shelter?

In this version, you’ve empowered the donor. She’s not just reading your story. She is a key actor in the story. She can donate and create the outcome she hopes to see.

(Of course, this means you’d better report back to her that her giving actually accomplishes that!)

Great fundraising stories are a kind of choose your own adventure story.

When you give the donor the power to create the story, you raise more money from donors who are more involved. Which is the whole purpose of successful fundraising.


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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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About the blogger

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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