The one-sentence story that makes your fundraising amazing

You’ve heard you need to tell stories to motivate donors to give.

That’s largely true.

But maybe not in the way you’re thinking.

There’s one super-short story — one, maybe two, sentences long — that almost guarantees success when you do it and do it well.

It’s the “action line” on your reply device (or donation page).

It works best when you make it the donor’s story about what their gift will accomplish. Some examples (with names changed):

Yes, count me in! I want to join Springfield Environment Action and help defeat Republican Agenda with my contribution in the amount of:

In just two sentences, 21 words, this tells a story. It’s a compelling action that the donor wants to make happen. It’s a micro-story the donor can tell about herself about the cause she will be part of when she donates.

For contrast, let’s look at another one:

The Springfield Food Bank needs your support — funds, food, and volunteer time — so we can provide free, nutritious meals to kids across the region.

This is also a compelling action. But it’s not a story about a donor. It’s a story about the organization’s activities. It is not going to work as well.

You’ll notice that the first example, and many other action lines in fundraising, is written as if the donor is saying it. The “I” is the donor. This is not the only way to do it, but it’s a very smart way. Because when you make it a statement by the donor, it’s pretty difficult to make it not about the donor!

This is a small and simple thing, but this one-or-so sentence is one of the most important in every fundraising project.

Write this action line before you do anything else in every fundraising project you tackle!


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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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