Which story are you telling?


Better Fundraising recently decided to sponsor the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference this fall.  (You should go!)  So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling.

I’ve noticed that when most nonprofits are thinking about “storytelling” in their fundraising, they are thinking about one of two stories:

  1. The story of a beneficiary.  You’ve seen loads of appeals like this: they focus on the story of one beneficiary who has already been helped, then ask the donor to support the work of the organization.  The storytelling focus is on the beneficiary.  Or…
  2. The story of the organization.  You’ve seen fundraising materials like this, too; they focus on what services the organization provides, what year the organization was founded, and what the organization believes.  The storytelling focus is on the organization itself. 

At Better Fundraising, we advise our clients not to tell either of those stories.

Instead, we help our clients tell “the story of the difference the donor’s gift will make.”  The storytelling focus is on the change that will happen when a donor gives a gift.

At its simplest, it looks like this; “Right now things are X, but if you give a gift they will be Y.”  Doing this well helps your donors to see and (more importantly) feel the difference their gift will help make.

Telling the story of “the difference that the donor’s gift will make” is a fundamentally different story than most organizations tell.  It results in fundamentally different appeals.

And those appeals raise significantly more money.

Ask yourself if the storytelling in your appeals is mostly about your beneficiaries or your organization.  If you’d like to raise more with your appeals, try an appeal that focuses on the difference a donor can make if they send in a gift.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

One comment on “Which story are you telling?

  1. Nailed it! As always your wisdom is very valid and straight to the point.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us to help make us better at what we do.
    God bless you and keep you looking up!

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