Where are all my stories hiding? ⋆ Hands-On Fundraising

So you’re (more) convinced that stories are the way to win over hearts.

But now comes the big challenge.

Where do I find our stories?

I understand. It’s hard!

We’ve all been carefully trained to judge our work using metrics. (And you must do that!)

But what you need to sleuth out are the stories behind those facts and figures. Because our brains want stories. It’s how we take in information. Stories make us feel good.

So here are some ideas for building a bank of good stories you can use.

Step one: make friends with the program staff

If you haven’t already cultivated these important internal relationships, get moving!

Most of these colleagues might not understand exactly what you do. You’re the person who gets the money so they can do the real work. And that’s all they need to know.

That’s frustrating. But don’t let it get in your way. Use it.

Explain that their work is what donors are really interested in. That they’re the ones with fingers on the pulse of your mission. And that you really want to share all of that with donors.

Like any relationship, this won’t work if it’s a one-time visit. Or if you only show up when you have a deadline to meet. Just like with your donors, coming around only with your hand out isn’t a good way to go.

Get the program staff used to seeing you. Stop in every day they’re in the office. Not like a cub reporter sniffing out the big story. Just to say hello and ask what’s happening in their world. You’re building trust.

Soon, they may be stopping by your office, excited about some aspect of their work. Listen. Listen carefully. Encourage them. (I had one smart colleague who wasn’t above baked goods…)

Step two: if possible, go with them. Help them do their work.

Say you run a food bank. Where are those stories? Where your mission work is happening.

You can talk to the people who staff the food bank. But you could also be there and see the work as it happens. Maybe even talk to people there if they’re willing. (Some may be!)

Step three: save, save, save for a rainy day

Save every story – even anecdotes. You never know when it will come in handy.

Create a story bank. Put it on a shared drive. Encourage all your colleagues to add any little thing they found interesting. Make it easy.

Then find ways to reward the people who help. A thank you, with a cc: to the boss. Some kind words. Some roll up your sleeves and help time. And don’t forget treats!

Step four: build trust by sharing

Just as your donors want to know that their gifts did something good, the people you turn to for stories want to know how they helped. Create a virtuous cycle. Share the wins – not “your” wins, but “our” wins.

We all know there’s no place for ego in fundraising, right? Hand out the credit when an appeal does well. Make sure your colleagues also get a copy of the newsletter.

Let them know YOU know how important they are.

Where else can you find stories?

Ask your donors to tell you why they give. Or what inspired their first gift.

You can do this on the phone. You can send a mini-survey. And if we ever have face-to-face events again, you can ask every donor you talk to. People enjoy talking about themselves if they’re talking to someone who’s truly listening.

If your cause matters to them, they’ll be happy to talk. Listen well. Follow up with questions. And make notes in their record!

You can also:

  • You can ask to be put in touch with willing beneficiaries.
  • If yours is an arts organization, talk to the artists and craftspeople.
  • Talk to community leaders if your organization is contributing to the community.

Be open to seeing your organization and its work from different perspectives. The more creative you are, about where to find stories, the more willing to really listen, the better the stories you’ll have to share.