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The Importance of Story in Donor Communications

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I love stories. Reading books and getting lost in another world is something I have done since I was a kid. There might even be a picture out there of me holding my favorite book wearing a homemade shirt that says “Brian Loves Books.”

Don’t judge. I was young and I totally rocked that shirt. 

Anyway, this blog isn’t about my love of books. It’s about story. 

Stories. We all have them. We all love to read about them or watch them in a movie. Your organization probably has tons of moving and compelling stories.

But why are stories so important and how can they help you, a fundraiser, raise more money for your organization? Let’s find out. 

Think of a statistic that changed your. Granted, some statistics are staggering and scary and compelling. But do they change people? Probably not. I was reading an article about story on and I have to quote what Frank Rose said because it’s brilliant:

“Just as the brain detects patterns in the visual forms of nature – a face, a figure, a flower – and in sound, so too it detects patterns in information. Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others. They are the signal within the noise.”

A signal within the noise. Isn’t that what your organization wants to be? A signal within the noise.

Those four words are enough to justify why stories are vital, but Frank also uncovers something that is a goldmine for nonprofits.

Did you see it?

It’s meaning.

Stories give us an avenue to find meaning in life. Those of you who have seen the latest Giving USA Report will know where I’m going with this. Meaning could be easily replaced with “value.” Our values reflect what our meaning in life is.

Know what the main reason donors give to organizations is? You got it, values.

Stories are important because they speak directly to the reason why donors give in the first place. Their meaning and values on life. 

That’s why we’re proud to be the title sponsor of the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. We know the edge that good storytelling can give fundraisers.

Now that we’ve established why they are important, let’s focus on how they can help you raise more money.

As we’ve already established, numbers, statistics and facts don’t compel most people to give, but stories do. Stories help donors makes sense of statistics. So as you are communicating with donors through newsletters, direct mail and email marketing, make sure that you include stories. Frame statistics in a story. Better yet, don’t share any statistics at all, tell a story and then show a clear path on how a donor can be part of that story. Make sure you are regularly asking for new and compelling stories of how specifically your organization is helping rebuild, sustain, save and protect.

We all want to be part of a bigger story. We all want to know that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. The amazing thing about the nonprofit world is that this is what you do everyday. You create bigger stories. Don’t hide that! Share more stories.

Be the signal within the noise.

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