Tell Your Story Well (Part Three)

Nonprofit, Fundraising

In this final blog of the series “Tell Your Story Well,” we will explore three “best practices” to help your financial supporters care.

In all of your communication (appeals, thanks, and reports) you should focus on the people you serve and how their lives have been changed because of the support of your givers.

Best Practice #1

Communicate Impact

1. Illustrate your

a. Outcomes (Darius has hope that transcends life in his gang-infested neighborhood), and
b. Results (Sutapa has freedom and dignity she never knew before learning to sew).

In order to do this…

2. Resist the urge to focus on

a. Activities (tutoring, sports, meal delivery, music instruction),
b. Details of how you operate your program (our three airplanes are expensive to keep up, we mentor young men in small groups), or
c. Accomplishments (We distributed 2,000 meals or enrolled 132 children after school).

Best Practice #2

Credit the Giver

1. Drop your organization out of the picture.
2. Use giver-focused language.
3. Help givers know how their giving makes a difference.

In other words, connect the giver to the changed life. Here’s how…

As you tell your story, drop your organization out of the picture (thank you to Doug Shaw for this illustration).
We are tempted to say that the donor’s gift to us helped to make an impact. Our communication can look like this:

Giver –> Organization –> Changed Life

Instead, let the donor know that they made the impact and let your message communicate this:

Giver –> Changed Life

Using giver-focused language will help you do that. Here are some examples:

– Because you care and give…Darius has hope.
– Your prayers and gifts have helped…Sutapa to be safe for the first time in her life.
– I thank the Lord for your faithfulness…
– Your partnership helped Sam discover…that there are alternatives to gang life.
– With God’s provision through you…
– The support of friends like you has helped children like Emma…learn how to read and excel in school.
– Thank you for helping men like Edward…learn to live a sober life.
– By God’s grace and with your help…

Versus the most egregious…Giver-focused language is NOT:

Help us meet our budget so that we can continue our outreach.

Another way to “Credit the Giver” is to help them know specifically how their giving makes a difference in someone’s life.

Answer this question: How will or how did $50, $500, or $5,000 help?

– One weekend of camp costs $180. Will you help bring one ($180), two ($360), or three ($540) children like Mario to camp this summer?
– Each mentoring group like the one that God used to turn Darius’s life around takes $500 a year to run. Will you sponsor 10 of these groups next year?

The third way you can help givers care and consequently to act is:

Best Practice #3

Tell One Story

“If I look at the masses, I will never act. If I look at one, I will.”
– Mother Theresa

When it comes to our hearts and what helps us care, one individual trumps the masses.

Translating that to your work means that:

One representative story that communicates your impact is more effective in connecting givers with the life-changing work you do than details of activities, strategies, and statistics.

How to tell ONE story:

Take me to the front lines…all the way there.
– Push it all toward a changed life.
– Tell me about one person whose life was changed.
Who has hope because of what you do every day?
– Use a name. Tell me specifics.
– Show me faces…pictures with captions move your story forward.

Some have called this the “Anne Frank syndrome.” We know about the atrocities of the Nazis because we know Anne’s story. We understand the horror of millions of people who died because Anne wrote in her diary.

We can extrapolate that principle with our givers.

Tell one story:

– Find your Anne.
– Tell her story.
– Tell me how I can help.

When you recognize:

1. Why people give, and
2. The disconnect between why they give and how we tend to communicate, then you are on your way to helping people (your givers) be a part of the amazing work you do.

As you practice, you’ll get better at communicating impact (not activities), crediting the giver (not your organization), and telling one story (not the story of many).

1. Communicate impact. It is about changed or saved lives.
2. Credit the giver for the changed life, and
3. Tell one story. Find your Anne.

Our work changes lives every day. Tell THAT story well.

Who is your Anne? I’d love to hear.

By Denise Kuhn, CFRE

You can read the first two blogs in this series here:
Tell Your Story Well (Part One)
Tell Your Story Well (Part Two)