You Don't Have to Have a Story to Tell a Story
Once there was a fundraising copywriter who liked nothing better than to sit at her desk and help her clients save the world. She knew that the work they did was as important as air and water to the people who needed their services. So she poured her heart into every word she wrote.
But she also knew that good fundraising results depended on more than just her own passion. If she wanted to inspire readers to open the envelopes or e-mails or blog posts she wrote, and if she wanted them to make generous and consistent gifts to the organizations she represented, she needed to make them feel the same way she felt.
After thinking about it for only a moment, she knew what to do. She realized one thing that made her feel so strongly about her clients was that she had learned as much as she could about their programs. She had learned a lot about the people who helped and the people who were helped.
So she said to her clients, "Send me real stories about men, women and children you've helped. Give me a chance to talk with some of them if possible. Let me tell their stories with as much realistic detail as I can. If you do that, I'll write appeals and acquisition letters that make your supporters feel as strongly about your work as I do."
So the clients sent stories. Stories of people who had faced terrible trials and challenges. Stories of suffering and loss and grief and fear. And, just as important, stories of people whose lives had been changed — or even saved — by her clients.
She wrote those stories using all the talent, art, craft, knowledge and experience she possessed.
The stories were good. And the results were good. Her clients prospered. And the world was a little better for it.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.