Once Upon a Time: The Power of Stories in Fundraising


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Presentation by Leah Eustace, ACFRE, to the LGBT Philanthropy Conference, April 2014 in Toronto.

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  • Intros
    -Each person to introduce themselves
    -what’s your role?
    -what do you hope we’ll accomplish today?
  • 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?”
  • 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…
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Listen to what’s being said around the water cooler
    Ask someone who’s been with your organization a long time to talk about the early days
    What’s your founder story?
    Talk to the people on the front lines
    Think about your own story… why are you doing the job you do? How have you been touched by the cause you work for?
    Attend your charity’s events
    Keep an eye on the blogs
    At the end of every day ask yourself “what happened today that would make a good story?”
    Carry around a notebook
    Check out what the corporate world is doing…. Type “tell your story” into Google
  • -brainstorm with staff a few times a year
    -set up google alerts
    -encourage staff to be thinking of the story of one
    -follow up with donors who write a note along with their check, fill in a survey, call
    -the more you ask, the more you’ll change the culture of your organization
    FLIP CHART: How else can you gather stories?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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
    Founder story
    Donor story
    Beneficiary story
    Leadership story
    ‘Family of’ story
    Your story
  • Jeremy Dias was bullied in his high school. Despite efforts to make changes in his school, he was stopped by school administrators, and experienced severe bullying and discrimination on a daily basis. As a result of his experiences, he challenged his school & school board at the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and after 3 years at the age of 21 was awarded a settlement.Feeling strongly that the funds should go to making a difference in his community, he and a few friends founded the Jeremy Dias Scholarship, an award for graduating youth working to stop bullying in their schools. After launching the scholarship, the newly formed team received hundreds of e-mails and messages from youth across Canada and parts of the world who wanted more support. The team, founded Jer's Vision, a registered charity that would work to support youth and stop bullying and discrimination of all kinds.In the last nine years, Jer's Vision has grown from a small committee to an organization doing programming across Canada and the United States, and supporting youth internationally
  • Rockefeller website: Each day, we are moved and inspired by the generosity and creativity of both established and emerging donors who genuinely want to leverage their wealth for the common good. This section of our website will feature profiles of individuals, couples and families who we feel are exemplary in their giving.
    Jon Stryker, grandson of Dr. Homer Stryker, the orthopedist who founded Stryker Corporation, a prominent medical device maker, is a leading American philanthropist and founder of the Arcus Foundation. Stryker has focused his giving efforts on championing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights as well as great ape conservation. [Read more about Jon Stryker]
  • Ten Oaks Project E-Appeal
  • Horizons Foundation offers donors the opportunity to create named funds within the LGBT Community Endowment Fund, either as part of their own legacies or in honor of others.
    John and Jack first met at a party in 1959 and moved in together six months later. During their life together, John served as the executive director of the Hearing Society for 36 years and helped found the Rainbow Deaf Society in the 1970s. He also took part in the creation of Larkin Street Youth Services in the 1980s. Jack worked as the controller of a major corporation and volunteered as the accountant for the Hearing Society.
    The Fairy Godfathers Fund they inspired is dedicated to creating a world in which LGBT people with disabilities are able to participate fully and equally in all aspects of community and society. Grants from the fund will focus especially (though not exclusively) on LGBT people who live with hearing impairments. Jack and John want to encourage others to give to the fund to increase the resources available for LGBT disability issues, from expanded services for LGBT youth to more training for social workers, nurses, doctors, and people who work with seniors.
  • Youth Line – Volunteer Voice in newsletter with donation appeal
  • For copies of the presentation, please give us your card.
  • Once Upon a Time: The Power of Stories in Fundraising

    1. 1. Once Upon a Time: The Power of Stories in Fundraising Leah Eustace, ACFRE #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    2. 2. Leah Eustace Principal & Chief Idea Goddess Good Works leah@goodworksco.ca blog.goodworksco.ca @LeahEustace #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    3. 3. THE IMPORTANCE OF STORIES #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    4. 4. Marketing clutter #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    5. 5. The answer is in how your brain works #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    6. 6. Scenario One: Karen Klein #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    7. 7. Scenario Two: Darfur #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    8. 8. Psychic Numbing Nicholas Kristof, New York Times #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    9. 9. The future of storytelling #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    10. 10. Appeal to the heart, not the head Artwork courtesy of Mark Phillips www.bluefroglondon.com #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    11. 11. FINDING STORIES #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    12. 12. Look and Listen
    13. 13. Invite • Website • Reply devices • Surveys • Welcome packages • Receipt packages • Newsletters • Facebook • Blogs ...and so on
    14. 14. Ask
    15. 15. INGREDIENTS OF A GOOD STORY #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    16. 16. Passion #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    17. 17. Hero #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    18. 18. An antagonist or conflict
    19. 19. Awareness #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    20. 20. Result #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    21. 21. Writing #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    22. 22. EXAMPLES #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    23. 23. Founding/Founder Story Jer’s Vision Bullied and discriminated against in high school. Challenged his school board and administration at the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and used the settlement to establish a scholarship fund. The response was so overwhelming that he subsequently established a charity supporting youth across the country and internationally. #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    24. 24. Donor Story #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    25. 25. Beneficiary Story #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    26. 26. Legacy Story #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    27. 27. Your story #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
    28. 28. Questions? #LGBTPhilanthropy #InclusiveGiving @LeahEustace
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