As you know from our involvement with the upcoming Storytelling Conference, we believe storytelling in your fundraising can be very effective. A good story will help to support your fundraising offer and connect your donor to what your nonprofit does.
There’s good reason for this, too. Telling stories is what humans do best. Ever since we were drawing pictures onto the side of rocks, storytelling has been our go-to form of communication. With a good story, we’re able to share our passions, our hardships, and our joys. It’s often the best way to explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we persuade others.
For us fundraisers, a good story is vital to engaging our donors. A moving story, if told simply and well, will invoke emotion and motivate her to give. But putting a story together is not always easy. Especially when you’re dealing with beneficiaries who may be embarrassed, shy, or reluctant to share about the difficulties they’ve faced.
So how can you collect the information you need to tell a compelling story in your fundraising communications?
To collect a good fundraising story (including emotional quotes that you can use to help the donor feel something) you need to first see several sides of the beneficiary. And one great way to do that is to interview a beneficiary in person, over the phone, or via email.
But it’s not just a matter of asking them to “tell their story.” You need to ask specific questions that are worded and framed correctly. Do this, and you will get the responses you need.
To help you get started, here are 10 interview questions I’ve used to get great responses from beneficiaries. If you end up using any of these questions, make sure that you adjust the wording to suit your cause and your nonprofit.
- Tell me your first memory of (what your nonprofit prevents or supports)?
- What did you find most challenging about (the cause)?
- What was the best/worst thing to happen?
- What would someone be surprised to know about you?
- Tell me how you first got involved with (your nonprofit)
- What did you think when you first met (your nonprofit)?
- Tell me how (your nonprofit) helped you
- If you hadn’t met (your nonprofit) what do you think your life would be like?
- What does your future look like now?
- If you had the chance to say something to those who have helped you, what would it be?
You can also pepper any answers with follow up questions like, “What makes you say that? Can you give me an example? How did that make you feel?”
Stories inspire us to act. So whatever it is that your organization does for others – providing food, clothing, safe housing, safety, or spiritual support – capturing and then telling a beneficiary story can support your offer and help you raise more money.