Donations That Matter: Making Development a Story

Are you struggling to gain traction with your school fundraising campaigns or looking for new ways to energize your campaigns for the 2016-2017 school year?

Consider implementing storytelling into your campaign plans. Storytelling is gaining more attention than ever thanks to higher success rates and more alumni engagement.

Storytelling in a development context is essentially crafting a narrative around the desired result or need and using that story to drive campaign awareness, marketing, and outreach.

  • What is your story? Are you fundraising for your annual fund? Trying to raise money designated for a new building or campus improvement project? Does your band need new instruments or does your sports teams need a new scoreboard? Once you’ve identified the fundraising goal, begin crafting a story that relates directly to the goal.
  • Emotion is essential. The goal of storytelling is to find a story that helps the constituent make an emotional connection to the need. This could be as simple as getting students directly affected by the need in front of the campaign or describing the personal implications of the project/need for the school community. Whatever it is, make sure the story has passion, emotion, and real people in order to personalize the message.
  • Tell your story everywhere. Once you’ve established a story or a series of stories, be sure to take them to every possible outlet. If it’s a live event, find a way to get the storytellers in front of the crowd. If it’s an online fundraising campaign, create media (video, graphics) that you can post on social media, your school blog, and within your email campaigns.
  • Use nostalgia. Nonprofit Quarterly wrote a post that said, “Through experience and research, we know that people learn better through stories than facts and statistics.” Regular giving is a learned habit and it’s up to your school to create a sense of responsibility and nostalgia in the minds of constituents and alumni. For alumni, nostalgia–and telling stories that directly relate to their experience at your institution–is an important step to driving engagement.
  • Keep the stories personal and digestible. An effective story requires efficient writing, whether it’s a script for a video or copy for a graphic. Use words like “our school”, “your help,” and “join us” to instill a sense of community with constituents.
  • Add a call to action. You must include a call to action to correspond to your storytelling efforts in order to maximize their return. For example, you can drive people to an online donation page or create a landing page that consolidates all the storytelling media around the campaign.

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