5 Foolproof Ways to Successful Storytelling That Raise Money
Content is the heart of your successful fundraising strategy.
If you don’t sell it, you won’t connect with your audience. And if you don’t do that, you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in you-know-where to persuade folks to give to you to further your mission.
This is where learning to become a master storyteller comes in. I know you’ve heard this before. Storytelling is the meme du jour. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay real attention. We’re in a content marketing zeitgeist.
This is why I’ve included content marketing as one of the 5 Fundamentals to Guarantee Nonprofit Success in 2016. (Note: If you’re new to “content marketing” take a brief tutorial on it to learn about the value it offers to you and your constituents.)
Master storytelling—your most essential content-marketing technique—if you want to get noticed and make a difference in our digitally revolutionized society where word-of-mouth, social sharing and social media shape your brand’s perception.
Stories are your ultimate content-marketing tool.
They enable you to talk with potential donors in a tangible, easy-to-understand manner to activate their imaginations, to draw them in. Your goal?
- Get inside folks’ heads.
- Get them on the edge of their seats.
- Get them to jump off of their seats.
- Get them inside your story.
- Make them the story’s heroes.
Today, I’m giving you five simple steps to create a winning outline for all your storytelling. That’s it—just five things. Can you commit to that?
Your success or failure at storytelling will shape your future. The world is filled with stories. How do you get yours noticed?
It’s all in the telling!
If you can master these few tricks, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a consummate spinner of tales that will not only “stick” with folks, but will impel them to jump into your story so they can give it a happy ending.
5 Keys on How to Tell a Memorable, Actionable Story
In a nutshell, the secret to success is this: The five-step perfect story structure. All the great novels, movies, television shows, plays and speeches use this structure to keep people engaged. Ready? This will change your life if you commit to it. Use this for everything and anything that calls for your listener/reader/viewer to take a desired action.
Do you remember learning to write an essay? You had to begin with a theme statement to introduce the content that would follow. The same holds true for the perfect story. Begin with a premise introduction. Tell us where and when the action takes place. Introduce main characters. Briefly describe their backgrounds. Your premise sets up the scene to follow in the imaginations of your audience members, enabling them to see a mental movie while you tell a story.
For example, I recently helped the Grameen Foundation revise its year-end nonprofit appeal letter. Here’s how it laid out the premise:
The look on Justine Kamuron’s face tells a story.
Though she’s resilient, her life has been tough.
She can’t read or write.
Her parents wouldn’t let her go to school.
She got married at just 18.
She and her husband spent long, exhausting days working their farmland and caring for their seven children—still not earning enough to make ends meet.
Once the premise has been described, it’s time to introduce the conflict. These are obstacles which must be overcome, and are necessary to provoke the curiosity of your audience. Conflict creates questions in people’s minds, such as “What will the character do next?" or "How will these struggles be resolved?”
For example, in the letter I described above, it went on to lay out some of Justine’s struggles:
Justine woke up early, spent most of her day under the hot, equatorial sun, tending to her crops or milking her cow, and came home late. But despite the hard work she put in day in and day out, her farm often didn’t do well.
A bacterial disease that’s common in her area of the country caused her banana trees to wilt, and she didn’t know how to fix things. Sometimes, swindlers sold her fake seeds that didn’t yield any crop at all.
Doesn’t that make you want to hear more of the story? Conflict makes folks curious to learn what happens next, and excited to find out whether there could be a happy resolution.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.