The Story of Fundraising
What's the last good story you read?
I am currently reading a novel that is one of the few I have read multiple times. Despite the fact that I know how it is going to end, the story itself is so compelling that I enjoy it time and again.
While it is doubtful that our fundraising copy is going to spend any time on the New York Times best-seller list, there's no reason why our newsletters and e-newsletters, appeals and e-appeals, videos, and websites have to be boring. But unfortunately, we get lazy and fall back on talking about ourselves or using timeworn clichés instead of seeking out a great story that will pull our donors and prospects into the heart of the action, almost as if they are experiencing our work themselves.
When I started my career in fundraising, I worked for an organization that had program staff members who were responsible for raising a portion of their own salaries. While I don't advocate that model in most cases, looking back I realize that as people right on the front lines of the work the organization was accomplishing, they had a strength that I, an organizational fundraiser, lacked: stories they had experienced firsthand.
For those of us who are tasked with providing information that encourages giving, the right story can make our jobs go from impossible to possible. So how do we get those compelling examples that help our donors and prospects grasp the importance of the work we do? Following are things that I have found can make my task as a copywriter a joy — or a job.
A good story starts with the right questions. Oftentimes, we interview a person to get his or her story (or a story related to a project being funded) and end up with a story that is mediocre at best. This can be the result of a failure to ask the right questions.