Book Review: Tell the story that’s relevant to donors

Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

Storybrand

It’s almost comforting to discover that commercial marketers face almost exactly the same challenge we fundraisers face They’re also prone to the same basic mistakes that make our messages ineffective.

Building a Story Brand is talking to marketers, and the big idea is this: If you want to get people to buy your stuff, stop talking about yourself, and start talking about them — and how your stuff fits into their lives.

And since you’re a smart fundraiser, you’re saying, That’s exactly what fundraising should do too! With, at most, a bit of a twist.

The “story” this book is about is the story you should be telling if you want to motivate people. It’s the story where they are the hero (not your organization), and how you can help them accomplish something great.

The central point of the book is the “StoryBrand 7 Framework.” Here it is — and I’ve slightly revised it to make it about donors and fundraising:

  1. The donor is the hero, not your brand. This is the most important point, and once anyone believes this, they are on the road to great fundraising.
  2. Fundraisers tend to sell solutions to external problems, but donors give to solve internal problems. This may be hard to believe, because your donors are on board with what you’re doing. But not because they want your organization to succeed. They’re in it for what it means to them — their values, their sense of how the world should be, their hopes and fears.
  3. Donors aren’t looking for another hero, they’re looking for a guide. When you zero in on what donating means for them — and not your organization — you’re speaking into their reality. You are helping them be heroes!
  4. Donors trust a guide who has a plan. This is why successful fundraising is about a problem and a solution that the donor makes happen. It’s a plan.
  5. Donors do not take action unless they are challenged to take action. Ask. You’ve got to directly, clearly, urgently, and repeatedly ask.
  6. Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending. One of the worst fates any human can face is to go through life and never make a difference. Donors get this. You help them triumph in their own lives.
  7. Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them. Always make “what this means for you” part of your fundraising message.

There’s a lot more in this inspiring and useful book. Highly recommended.

Available at Amazon: Building a Story Brand.


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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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