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Telling Stories in
Fundraising: Connecting
Your Donors to Your
Mission so You Raise

Joanna Bartlett
Alight Communication
TELLING STORIES…
So what’s my story?
Why do we tell stories?
Why stories work in fundraising
What makes up good story
...
SO WHAT’S MY STORY?
 Born in England
 Moved to Barbados at age 10
 Moved to U.S. at age 14
 Have lived in Florida, Nor...
WHY DO WE TELL STORIES?
Because:
We’re human
Stories bring communication to life
Stories stimulate our brain
Stories s...
AN EXAMPLE

Lane County has the highest rate of children in foster care in Oregon: nearly 1,000
children currently live in...
WHY STORIES WORK IN
FUNDRAISING
Stories engage and arouse
emotions
Emotions cause the impetus to
act
Stories work bette...
ALWAYS GO WITH EMOTION
"The essential difference between emotion and reason is
that emotion leads to action while reason l...
AN EXAMPLE
Read the following two paragraphs and see which tugs at your
heartstrings:
A) Any money that you donate will go...
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Rokia is an ―identifiable victim.‖
Her personal story – focusing exclusively on her plight – is
muc...
THE SURPRISE TWIST
If you present a personal case of
an identifiable victim along with
statistical data about similar vict...
WHY DO PEOPLE GIVE?
People are inherently generous
People give to people
People respond to a meaningful mission
People...
WHAT MAKES A GOOD STORY
IN FUNDRAISING?
A simple, emotionally
compelling message
Engage your donors’ emotions
Don’t try...
PARTS OF A GOOD
FUNDRAISING STORY
Lede/hook

 Get their attention

Drama

 What’s the problem?
 Keep them engaged

Mess...
HOW TO FIND YOUR STORIES
Talk to the people who work with the people you help
Develop a mechanism for those you serve to...
CONNECTING WITH YOUR
MISSION
Compelling stories connect donors with your mission
It’s why they give to your organization...
HOW TO USE YOUR STORIES
Brochures
Newsletter
Facebook
E-newsletter
Direct mail appeal letters
Cases for support
Boa...
REUSE, REPACKAGE, RENEW
Consistency in messaging is important
Donors need multiple impressions to make an impression
Re...
EXAMPLES
Website:
 MomsRising.org: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/voices-of-the-unemployed-part-7/

Newsletter:
 PeaceHe...
YOUR TURN
Write a story
5-10 minutes
Relax
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the details
RESOURCES
Tom Ahern:

 Website: aherncomm.com
 Books:
 How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money
 Makin...
QUESTIONS?
Ask away!
CONTACT INFO
Joanna Bartlett
Alight Communication
Email: Joanna@alightcommunication.com
Web: www.alightcommunication.com
P...
Telling stories in fundraising: connecting your donors to your mission so you raise more money
Telling stories in fundraising: connecting your donors to your mission so you raise more money
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Telling stories in fundraising: connecting your donors to your mission so you raise more money

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Joanna Bartlett has always told stories. Most of them true. She's an award-winning professional writer, having honed her skills in journalism, public relations and fundraising -- spinning yarns about people and their impact on the world around them. She has 15 years professional writing and editing experience and is published in a broad range of newsletters, newspapers and magazines. Before launching Alight Communication in 2013, Joanna was a key player in marketing communications for PeaceHealth Foundations, spearheading strategic and collaborative initiatives across the organization. Before moving to Oregon in 2009, Joanna lead Earthscribe, a marketing communications firm in upstate New York. Joanna spent the previous five years providing web and communications expertise at Rochester Institute of Technology, bringing the news office into the social media arena.

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  • Anthropologists tell us that storytelling is central to human existence. That it’s common to every known culture. We have always told stories, even before we had written words.When we read words or listen to a PPT with bullet points, the language processing areas of our brain – Broca’s and Wernicke’s – are activated. But when we’re told a story, all the areas of our brain we’d use when experiencing the story’s events light up, too. E.g. sensory cortex or motor cortex.When we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences, e.g. CASA.
  • Students at Carnegie Melon University were asked to complete a survey about technology use and were given 5, $1 bills. The envelope also contained one of the two paragraphs. The study was conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 by Deborah Small, George Lowenstein and Paul Slovic.
  • In a 3rd experiment, as part of the same study, students read about Rokia’s story and statistics about persistent drought, shortfalls in crop production, and millions of Africans who were going hungry.
  • You can use your stories more than once, in more than one place. It takes multiple impressions to make an impression.
  • Transcript of "Telling stories in fundraising: connecting your donors to your mission so you raise more money"

    1. 1. Telling Stories in Fundraising: Connecting Your Donors to Your Mission so You Raise Joanna Bartlett Alight Communication
    2. 2. TELLING STORIES… So what’s my story? Why do we tell stories? Why stories work in fundraising What makes up good story How to find them How to use them Examples of great stories
    3. 3. SO WHAT’S MY STORY?  Born in England  Moved to Barbados at age 10  Moved to U.S. at age 14  Have lived in Florida, North Carolina, New York, Oregon  Professional writer – journalism, technical writing, public relations, freelance assignment reporting, blogging, copywriting, fundraisin g communications  Have 4 kids, enjoy cooking, knitting, walking, gardening and spinning yarn
    4. 4. WHY DO WE TELL STORIES? Because: We’re human Stories bring communication to life Stories stimulate our brain Stories stick with us Stories help us relate to others
    5. 5. AN EXAMPLE Lane County has the highest rate of children in foster care in Oregon: nearly 1,000 children currently live in a foster care. Resources currently allow CASA to serve less than half of the need, just 300 children a year. For foster children who never find a permanent home and simply age out of the foster care system, the consequences are significant and long-term: • only 50% will complete high school, • 25% will be homeless, • 40% will depend on some form of public assistance, and
    6. 6. WHY STORIES WORK IN FUNDRAISING Stories engage and arouse emotions Emotions cause the impetus to act Stories work better than statistics Adding statistics ruins your response rate and donations ―If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.‖ -- Mother Teresa
    7. 7. ALWAYS GO WITH EMOTION "The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions." -- Donald Calne, Canadian neurologist ―If you want people to THINK about your cause, remain rational. If you want people to JOIN your cause NOW, stick with emotions.‖
    8. 8. AN EXAMPLE Read the following two paragraphs and see which tugs at your heartstrings: A) Any money that you donate will go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl who lives in Mali in Africa. Rokia is desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger, even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with Rokia's family and other members of the community to help feed and educate her, and provide her with basic medical care. B) Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than three million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated three million Zambians face hunger. Four million Angolans — one-third of the population — have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.
    9. 9. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? Rokia is an ―identifiable victim.‖ Her personal story – focusing exclusively on her plight – is much more likely to generate donations than the descriptions of unnamed "statistical victims.‖  Participants who read exclusively about Rokia gave an average of $2.38  Participants who read only the statistics about mass starvation gave an average of $1.14
    10. 10. THE SURPRISE TWIST If you present a personal case of an identifiable victim along with statistical data about similar victims overall donations actually decline. Participants who read both the statistics and about Rokia gave only $1.43 Compared to $2.38 reading only about Rokia ―The more vivid the story – through narrative or through imagery – the more emotionally arousing. And emotions are what triggers the impetus to help. ―The more surprising finding is that showing statistics can actually blunt this emotional response by causing people to think in a more calculative, albeit uncaring, manner.‖ Deborah Small – Wharton marketing professor
    11. 11. WHY DO PEOPLE GIVE? People are inherently generous People give to people People respond to a meaningful mission People give in relation to the person who asks People respond to specific requests for support People respond to successful and beneficial programs Data based on CCS interviews with over 6,200 non-profit stakeholders during 2012. Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape © 2013 CCS
    12. 12. WHAT MAKES A GOOD STORY IN FUNDRAISING? A simple, emotionally compelling message Engage your donors’ emotions Don’t try to appeal to reason Thank your donors profusely (it’s about them, not you) Use photos whenever possible  Sad photos outperform happy photos "The best way to do that is in the form of a picture or a story, something that purely engages the emotional system. The mistake that many charities make is trying to appeal both to emotion and to reason. They assume this would be more effective than appealing to only one or the other, but it isn’t.― – Deborah Small
    13. 13. PARTS OF A GOOD FUNDRAISING STORY Lede/hook  Get their attention Drama  What’s the problem?  Keep them engaged Message  How does this relate to your mission?  How can you thank your donors? Next steps  Call to action  What can they do to help or get involved?
    14. 14. HOW TO FIND YOUR STORIES Talk to the people who work with the people you help Develop a mechanism for those you serve to share their story  Facebook page  Email/contact form on website  Survey  Flyers
    15. 15. CONNECTING WITH YOUR MISSION Compelling stories connect donors with your mission It’s why they give to your organization Give donors the credit for your success Ask them for their help
    16. 16. HOW TO USE YOUR STORIES Brochures Newsletter Facebook E-newsletter Direct mail appeal letters Cases for support Board meetings Annual report YouTube videos
    17. 17. REUSE, REPACKAGE, RENEW Consistency in messaging is important Donors need multiple impressions to make an impression Reuse your content in different formats Repackage content – distill for shorter pieces, expand for longer Renew – update the content with new information as time goes by
    18. 18. EXAMPLES Website:  MomsRising.org: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/voices-of-the-unemployed-part-7/ Newsletter:  PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center Foundation: Vol 11 Summer 2013 Video:  Rainforest alliance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5E2L1X9Gs&feature=share&list=PLeUj3yPjebQrcfKxc1IYpRWW_CimuFNDB&index=1
    19. 19. YOUR TURN Write a story 5-10 minutes Relax Don’t worry if you don’t have all the details
    20. 20. RESOURCES Tom Ahern:  Website: aherncomm.com  Books:  How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money  Making Money with Donor Newsletters  Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes: How to Make a Persuasive Case for Everything from Your Annual Drive to Your Planned Giving Program to Your Capital Campaign Andy Goodman  Website: www.thegoodmancenter.com  Book: Storytelling as Best Practice Jeff Brooks  Website: www.futurefundraisingnow.com/  Book: The Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications
    21. 21. QUESTIONS? Ask away!
    22. 22. CONTACT INFO Joanna Bartlett Alight Communication Email: Joanna@alightcommunication.com Web: www.alightcommunication.com Phone: 541-525-5144 Twitter: @JoannaBartlett FB: www.facebook.com/alightcomm
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