Who Do You Represent?
[Editor's Note: This article is based on the keynote presentation, "Telling a Bigger Story: A New Engagement Paradigm For Better Appeals," held on July 27 at the 2010 Bridge Conference in National Harbor, Md.]
It's 2010, and it's getting easier to tell the story about the people you serve. All you need is a cheap Flip Video camera, a social-media platform and a few solid questions to ask. The story is just waiting to be told.
Unfortunately, it's much harder to tell a story your donors will identify with.
Let's be honest: Storytelling often gets muddled when it comes to the fundraising process. While you're judged by your impact on beneficiaries, it's ultimately your donors that must buy in to your story.
There's the secret to really great fundraising: If you can put yourself in the shoes of your donor, your financial appeal stands a much greater chance of success. Remember that many donors are becoming increasingly cynical, suspicious and exhausted. That's why you need to speak in a more thoughtful manner.
Here is series of questions to help you reinforce the emotional connection and the perceived value of your work.
1) Do I belong here?
That's the first question in the mind of every donor.
One way or another, donors must locate themselves in your story. They must experience a genuine emotional pull that what you do matters to them, personally. It might be the cause itself, a pet project that means something, their relationships to staff members — the possible intersections are endless. It's your job to help connect the dots and determine why people generally get involved.
- Can you describe who most easily identifies with your work?
- What are you doing to remind them of how they belong with you?
- How might you give them something to remember you for?
There are many reasons people are motivated to donate — but the constant is meaning. That is your true currency and the building block of all great stories. How can you create a pride of belonging?
2) What do you stand for?
More than just numbers, donors invest in organizations that reflect their own personal values and worldviews.