Storytelling to Engage Donors

This past year, the trend in gaining and retaining donors has had a lot to do with the stories your organization is sharing and how. Blackbaud has found that stories are a more engaging way to communicate with your donors to show them the work your nonprofit is doing and how they are truly making a difference.
People like to see results, and transparency is important to any relationship, whether it is for profit or nonprofit. In this case, transparency allows donors to actually see where their money is going. By telling the stories of the people or groups you are helping, your donors can rest assured knowing what you are doing with their money and how they are making an impact in the lives of others.
Think about the most common approach to showcasing results – it involves a lot of numbers and straight up facts. While these are certainly effective in supporting results, people often just glance at numbers and facts without taking the time to learn and understand what they mean. The story is a different way to actually engage donors in a way that is interesting and useful to them. Donors won’t remember what percentage of youth your organization helped stay in school, but they will remember Sarah’s story and how she was personally helped by your nonprofit.
Not sure where to start? Vanessa Chase of Blackbaud has a three-step method for getting organized and starting.
Use program staff members. These are the people that have been working with clients before and after your organization comes in. They know the circumstances and conditions that people were facing without the help of your nonprofit, so they are the best tool you can use to create a “before and after” story model.
Use volunteers. These people can be extremely valuable resources at your organization because they also have stories to tell. They can talk testify for your donors about why they are involved and the kind of work they see being done as a first-hand account. Their stories might include, what attracted them to your organization, what changes have they seen as a result of your work and the kinds of projects they have been involved in.
Use clients. Finally, the best way to tell stories is through the clients you are helping and changing the lives of. Share their success stories because donors want to hear about how they are helping to change the lives of people. Ask clients what their conditions were before you organization stepped in to help and what their outlook on the future is now.
Stories are so helpful because they are human nature. They bring a natural communication style with them that people respond to and understand more. This builds relationships with your donors that can sustain future donor retention.

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