Incorporating Stories Into Your Fundraising Program


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Presentation by Leah Eustace and Holly Wagg of Good Works to CAGP/AFP Saskatoon, September 2013.

Nothing connects us to one another like stories. We teach our children through story. We entertain each other with stories. And yes, we raise a lot of money by being great storytellers.

Great fundraisers know the power of great narrative.

In this session, we talk about the psychology around giving, and will provide real life examples of great planned giving stories in action.

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  • Intros -Each person to introduce themselves -what’s your role? -what do you hope we’ll accomplish today?
  • Leah
  • Leah 1970s, the average person in Canada was exposed to roughly 500 ads a day. These days, that number is closer to 5,000. Cuba: lack of ads So, “how do you get fundraising message noticed in the crowded modern marketplace?”
  • Leah Through stories. Stories get and keep the reader’s attention Help you communicate better Enhance credibility Linger longer in reader’s minds Get your message passed along further and faster People believe information more readily if it’s delivered in story rather than through statistics. And science backs this up…
  • Leah Who can tell me what’s going on here? June 2012 Bus monitor bullied by 4 boys in grade 7 Video posted to Youtube… soon watched by millions Boys make fun of her appearance, age, etc. One boy refers to Klein's family, saying, "They all killed themselves, because they didn't want to be near you." Max Sidorov, a nutritionist , author and Ukrainian immigrant living in Toronto who says he had been a victim of bullying as a child, started a campaign at fundraising site Indiegogo with a goal of $5,000, to help give Klein a vacation When the campaign ended on July 20, Klein's campaign had received a total of $703,833.
  • Leah Conflict began in 2003 One of world’s worst human rights crises. 4.7 million people affected 1.4 million living in camps Described as genocide As many as 400,000 dead Do you have any examples like this in your own fundraising? Perhaps you asked for money for a big problem and it didn’t get the same response as a relatively small problem?
  • Leah Nicholas Kristof: American journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. He has written an op-ed column for The New York Times since 2001 widely known for bringing to light human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, such as human trafficking and the Darfur conflict. has learned to use stories of individual people in his reporting: people donate more! inspired by the work of Paul Slovic Ordinary citizens were asked to contribute $5 to alleviate hunger abroad In one version, the money would go to a particular girl, Rokia, a 7-year-old in Mali In another, to 21 million hungry Africans In a third to Rokia, but she was presented as a victim of a larger tapestry of global hunger People were less likely to give to anonymous millions like Rokia. By they were also less willing to give in the third sceniaro, in which Rokia’s suffering was presented as part of a broader pattern In another experiment, people in one group could donate to a $300,000 fund for medical treatments that would save the life of one child – or, in another group, the lives of 8 children. People donated more than twice as much money to help save one child as to help save 8.
  • Holly How a story actually works… Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people's worlds and in doing that they change how our brains work
  • Holly human’s are not ideally set up to understand logic; they’re ideally set up to understand stories Engage their emotions Another Slovic experiment: People prepared to donate to the needy were first asked either to talk about babies (to prime the emotions) or to perform math calculations (to prime their rational side). Those who did math donated less. There is a universal story structure, and this structure, according to Paul Zak’s experiments, you can predict with 80% accuracy who will give.
  • Holly There are 5 ingredients every letter story needs. This is what takes you from ho-hum (or a reciting overwhelming fact after fact) to good. Maybe even excellent. All stories need passion, a hero, an antogonist or conflict, awareness, and technically speaking, let’s talk about the best way to write it.
  • Holly You need passion to tell a good story. Is suspect that everyone in this room has passion: we wouldn’t be overworked and under paid in the non-profit profession if we weren’t drive by that passion and that desire to make a difference. The more passionate we are in telling our story and the more authentic we are in our emotions, the more compelling we are as the narrator. Another way of saying this is we need some oomph in the narration.
  • Leah There needs to be a protagonist or hero in your story. You need someone who people find they respect or who is compelling, someone substantial but someone relatable at the same time, someone people identify with and feel some role in the stakes that that person is facing.
  • Holly If there’s nothing at stake, there’s no story. What is the hero up against? If there’s nothing in their way or there’s no conflict, it’s not a story. What is the person trying to achieve? Where is the natural tension in the story?
  • Leah A good story always gives us a few facts (not many) that make us Aware of the world in a new way. When I find out I can feed a child for only few dollars a month, or that changing a few light bulbs will be my part in taking the equivalent of millions of cars off the road to fight global warming I get inspired and want to pass the message along. Word of mouth works. Getting others to tell your story for you is a great use of your time. 
  • Leah Finally, don’t be shy. What you do changes the world. It does. So let us have closure in your story. Let us see how you are transforming things for the better. It is the end of every good story, and leaves us ready to here your next one.
  • Holly Always write stories in the first person Write as you speak: short sentences and paragraphs Write at a grade 6 level (google “turn on readability stats in word” to find out how to do that) Like any fundraising appeal, the story should have an introduction, a problem, a solution and a result. Oh, and in legacy giving, don’t use the word legacy. Donors don’t get it. Gift in your will is the language that donor’s understand. You want to paint a picture in your donors’ minds so they pay closer attention, understand more easily and respond emotionally.
  • Holly 1) I need to provide for my family/children/grandchildren 2) I’m not rich and this is something rich people do
  • Holly Founder story Donor story Beneficiary story Leadership story ‘ Family of’ story Your story
  • Leah
  • Mare Olito. Tells the story of how 50 years ago she visited an orphanage and was haunted by the vacant look in the children’s eyes. Sponsored children for over 46 years, and they became her family. “ I’m not a wealthy person. I’m living on my teacher’s pension and I’m not a big one for savings. I even quit smoking after I retired (and I was a heavy smoker!), so that I could have $40 more a month to send to my sponsored children.” Generated 10 expectancies.
  • Holly - Care example
  • Leah - World Vision
  • Holly – Olivia and Jack’s love story. I can’t honestly say when I first laid eyes on Jack Layton. During the early and mid-1980s – when I was an assistant to NDP MP Dan Heap– I’d been in meetings with him and was quite aware of his career in municipal and NDP politics. I do remember though, when I was first drawn to him. Jack and I were both volunteering at a hospital charity auction in downtown Toronto in 1985. He was the auctioneer and I was translating the auction proceeding for some of the Chinese-Canadians in attendance. That evening, we had the chance to talk – and it didn’t take long for us to ‘recognize’ each other. We talked about our passions for politics. What we believed in. What we wanted from life. Our humanitarian and spiritual beliefs – and our shared belief that faith without action is hollow. What we did for fun. The more we talked, the more we realized just how much we had in common. The conversation that began that night continued for the next 27 years. As that conversation continued to deepen, so did the connection and love between us. We became – and I suppose still are – soul mates in the truest possible sense of the word.
  • Leah - Plan Canada
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  • Incorporating Stories Into Your Fundraising Program

    1. 1. Incorporating Stories Into Your Fundraising Program Leah Eustace, CFRE & Holly Wagg, CFRE
    2. 2. Holly Wagg Leah Eustace #FRDay13 | Principal & Chief Idea Goddess Philanthropic Counsel
    4. 4. Marketing clutter
    5. 5. The answer is in how your brain works
    6. 6. Scenario One: Karen Klein
    7. 7. Scenario Two: Darfur
    8. 8. Psychic Numbing Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
    9. 9. The future of storytelling
    10. 10. Appeal to the heart, not the head Artwork courtesy of Mark Phillips
    12. 12. Passion
    13. 13. Hero
    14. 14. An antagonist or conflict
    15. 15. Awareness
    16. 16. Result
    17. 17. Writing
    18. 18. Two Common Legacy Objections
    20. 20. Founding/Founder Story The St. Michael's Story In 1892, in an old Baptist church on Bond Street, the Sisters of St. Joseph operated Notre Dame des Anges, a boarding house for working women. Responding to the need to care for their own and the poor population in the south end of Toronto, the Sisters founded St. Michael's Hospital.
    21. 21. Donor Story
    22. 22. Beneficiary Story
    23. 23. Leadership Story
    24. 24. Family of the deceased Story
    25. 25. Your story
    26. 26. Questions?
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