Writing, Fundraising

Fundraising techniques: Ten tips for reaching hearts and minds through great storytelling

Karen Ackerman gives valuable insight into how to reach people through a great story.

Fundraising techniques on writing a great story

Before a charity puts anything on their website, writes a press release, posts on Facebook or communicates with their supporters in any other way, they should ask themselves one very important question, “So What?.” We’re all very wrapped up in the work our organisations do and assume they must also be fascinating to others, but if you want your intended audience to care about what you are trying to tell them, ask yourself that question, and then tell them a great story about why they should care.


1. Don’t tell people what your charity does, tell stories about who it benefits

It’s very easy to explain what your organisation does and what projects you run, but it’s much more effective and memorable to tell stories about who you are benefitting and how you have changed lives.

Great stories are about interesting people. Find great characters and tell their stories. Paint a picture with words about how their life has changed because of your help. Cancer Research UK use their Facebook page very effectively to tell the stories of the people who have benefited from their research.


2. Take the audience on a journey

Show your audience what the problem is you are trying to solve, how you have solved it and the difference you have made by solving it. Wateraid does a great job of setting out the problem and telling compelling stories about the people they are helping


3. Think about what your one message is

Try and stick to one clear message to help your supporters get your story. Make it clear what you want them to do, is it to give money, volunteer or just to know more about your cause?


4. Use emotion

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

People will care more if you make them feel something through your stories, it doesn’t matter if you make them feel happy or sad, but making them feel something is essential.


5. But make sure it’s genuine and authentic

True human interest stories will engage your potential supporters and bring to life what you do. The real stories of people you have helped will help you connect with your supporters in a genuine way.


6. It’s all in the detail

Spend time talking to potential case studies for stories, and really listening to them by asking thoughtful, open questions. It’s when you really spend time, and really listen that the little details come out, those little nuggets of gold that make the stories even more memorable and personal.


7. Build a system to collect case studies

Involve the people at the grass roots in your organisation in collecting stories. They know what’s going on out there and who has great stories. Set up a system to collect and file those stories and collect contact info from relevant people.


8. Think about stories in terms of 5 basic questions

When you’re thinking about your story and talking to potential case studies, ask these 6 basic questions;

  •                     Who
  •                     What
  •                     When
  •                     Where
  •                     Why
  •                     How?

If you ask all of these questions, you’ll definitely make sure you get all the details you need and that a journalist will need if you want to offer your story to the press.


9. Build story telling into all of your communications

Get used to thinking in stories when you are writing annual reports, for your website or for e-newsletters. Tell stories about people, not lists of facts. If you’re writing a press release, include a case study to bring the story to life for the journalist.


10. Ask yourself “So what?”

I know I started with this point, but I think it’s worth repeating! Ask yourself why someone should care about the story you are telling them. Think about what will make them care, can you make it more personal, more emotional or just more interesting?


Karen is giving a workshop on this key area at Charityfair on Wednesday 25 May in the afternoon.

Charityfair takes place on 24-25 May – Book your workshops now from only £35.