Whose Story Are You Telling?
Have a fundraising challenge you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old, yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the over-the-top results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem and I’ll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
A note to my readers: Stay tuned for a groundbreaking knowledge opportunity coming later this month. You’ll be among the first to know!
I spoke with Cathy just a few days before Christmas. Cathy is the executive director of a small, worthy nonprofit focused on the elderly. In the midst of her planning for 2016, she reached out to me with a familiar concern. How do I persuade prospective donors to actually invest in my organization?
In fundraising lingo, “How do I convert more prospects into donors?”
Seems Cathy attended a workshop on nonprofit storytelling several months back. Taken with the ideas she heard at the session, Cathy returned to immediately implement what she learned. She reached out to me for help in understanding why the subsequent response to her well-crafted direct-mail campaign was so poor.
Fads in fundraising are like all fads. Each trendy technique is seen as the end-all-be-all, which of course it never is. Not that it doesn’t have value—in its proper place. Seems “storytelling” is becoming the latest sexy fad. Put it in a story and, whiz-bang, you’ve got success.
We’ve been weathering the “major gifts” fad for the past couple of years. Fundraisers’ love affair with major giving may be waning to make 2016 the Year of the Story as the one-size-fits-all solution for fundraising.
I asked Cathy to read her appeal on the phone to me. It was, indeed, well crafted. Complete with a tear-jerking personal story that Scrooge would be hard pressed to ignore.
But. There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?
I asked Cathy for whom the appeal was created. She seemed to stumble. Well, it’s for prospective donors, who else?
Not to leave her hanging, I asked her a series of short questions. What do your prospective supporters believe? What are the outcomes they want? What motivates them? What are they afraid of? What are your investors’ stories?
She couldn’t answer me.
Nonprofit organizations make a fatal mistake when they erroneously assume that it’s about them and their work when they seek funds to fuel their visions.
I can assure you it’s not about you or your organization. It never is. No, never.
If you’re going to use storytelling to aid you in raising money, you need to realize whose story you need to tell. It ain’t yours.
Generous, philanthropically minded people don’t give a tinker’s darn about your organization and it’s dreams.
Principle 4 of The Eight Principles™ is “Learn & Plan™.” As the principle of preparation, it says simply you must first learn who your potential supporters are and what they value, then plan how to reach them.
Lots of organizations do demographic research. Very, very few make the effort to identify what really makes their supporters tick. Those are the ones whose appeals always seem to go over the top.
These are also the organizations that resist the trend-de-jour mentality and instead focus on what’s right for them. Why?
Because they’ve crafted an organizational paradigm that works with their investors.
Cathy seemed a bit dispirited. I suggested she assemble a small group of her current investors and get answers to the questions I posed and use those answers to guide her in her next appeal.
I’ve offered to review her next direct-mail piece before it’s sent. She has a worthy story to tell—the story of the dreams and aspirations of all those out there who will support her, when she gives them the opportunity.
I extend my thanks to Cathy for sharing, and wish her the best of success in the future.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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