mother and child having storytelling time

Communicating Impact with Storytelling: 6 Story Elements to Connect with Your Donors

As humans, we are programmed for storytelling – literally. Our brains light up, we form connections, and we remember. Storytelling is as old as humanity and it’s a powerful tool that can drive donations. 

Learn how to communicate your organization’s impact with storytelling.

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See how other organizations are using storytelling to inspire donors and increase donations. Book a meeting with our fundraising experts to learn more about storytelling and donor engagement.

Good stories are found everywhere.

Communicating impact through storytelling starts with seeking out good stories — and you don’t have to look far. Grateful patients, families, and students who your organization has helped are a bountiful source of information. These people want to give back by sharing their victories, and the role your organization played in them.

It’s very likely that you also have donors with incredible stories to share. It could be a family connection to your cause that inspired their donation, a heartfelt desire, or even a personal reason. Simply asking a few simple questions about their “why” could unveil some amazingly good quotes and stories to share.

Volunteers can serve as another source. There are a multitude of organizations that your volunteers could give their time to. Why choose yours?  What inspires them to help your cause?

donor engagement storytelling at Arkansas Children’s Hospital

What makes a good story?

As you gather these stories, keep in mind these six elements that make up a good story so you can effectively utilize them in your marketing: emotional triggers, neuroscience, human connection, vivid descriptions, empathy, and authenticity.

1. Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers motivate us to give. Facts and figures don’t. In fact, studies show that talking about statistical data will suppress this emotional response. Numbers switch your audience back over to the logical, calculating side of their brains. It’s best to avoid statistics in your stories.

2. Neuroscience

Good stories are unforgettable. But why are they unforgettable? As human beings, storytelling is hardwired into our brains to trigger our emotions. In fact, neuroscientists have confirmed that decisions are often based on emotion, not logic. 

Incorporating storytelling into your fundraising communication strategy, is vital to the success of your organization. Stories are one of the most powerful and scientifically-proven tools, because more areas of the brain are stimulated resulting in readers being conscious of what they are reading. People hear statistics but they feel stories.

nonprofit storytelling

A staggering 63% of people recall information based on stories.

In a recent study, researchers tested two different versions of a Save the Children brochure. The researchers found that the story-based brochure resulted in an increase to $2.38 from $1.14 (in terms of per participant donation) over the infographic-based brochure. [Source: Forbes]

3. Vivid Descriptions

Stories come to life when they are detailed and descriptive. Use adjectives and visual descriptions that drop the audience right in to the middle of the scene. Paint the picture using all five senses. Incorporate video and imagery whenever you can to illustrate the direct impact of your cause. 

 

Make your story vivid. Use adjectives that invoke all five senses and paint a picture. Describing someone’s callused, work-worn hands paints a much more vivid picture than a descriptor such as rough hands. The more vivid the story, through narrative or through imagery, the more emotionally arousing it is. And emotions are what trigger the impetus to help or give. Research has shown that relating statistical data can actually suppress the emotional response of the listener by making them switch to the logical, calculating side of their brain, rather than their emotional side, so avoid trying to relate statistics within your story.

4. Human Connection

Stories with a human element make us feel like we, too, can overcome the obstacles in our path. Look for this connection in your stories and find a way to tie it back to your cause

arkansas children's hospital donor wall storytelling element

5. Empathy

Empathy with your audience allows them to “see themselves” in the story and go on the journey with you as you connect it back to your cause. When you know what inspires them, you can connect with them.

6. Authenticity

Your organization and the people connected to it are unique. Appreciate what makes your organization tick and be true to it. True passion is contagious. The more authentic you are, the easier it is for your donors to connect. 

Sharing your Stories

Once the stories are collected and curated, it’s time to share them with the world — to inspire people to not only donate, but fundraise and advocate for your cause. Great stories can help you do this. 

 

Share these stories for maximum impact. Display them on your donor wall; incorporate them into video brochures and newsletters. Share the content on social media and present it at meetings. Videos, pictures, and copy can be used in a variety of ways to get the message out.

 

You can even present stories live as they unfold in real time. Let your audience and your donors see the direct and immediate impact of their donations. It’s a powerful and effective way to utilize storytelling. 

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