Annually, and probably more often, you’re challenged to find fresh and significant stories to stir passion for your mission and your organization. You’re targeting prospective donors, and also existing donors to stoke the fires that make people want to give.
Fundraising is about inspiring people to believe they can make a difference. Most of the time the donor can’t literally see where the work is taking place. You need to be able to paint pictures with words so that the donor can see the work for himself.
If you feel that you’ve wrung all the story material you can out of your existing fodder, then you’ll welcome a few new ideas about places to look. Building your cache of stories provides a handy supply to turn to each time a new “challenge” occurs.
1. Talk to board members one-on-one to learn what motivated them to get involved with your organization. There’s usually more to the story than that someone asked them. There’s usually some kind of personal connection with (and passion for) the services you provide.
2. The same is true of staff members. Their interest in your organization probably goes beyond the paycheck. Find out what preceded the hire date or what changes they’ve seen as a result of your work. Don’t forget to ask what stories they’ve heard in their conversation with consumers.
3. Talk not just to consumers. Have conversations with parents, spouses, children, caregivers, friends of people you serve. Their point of view may see a story that the consumer didn’t see.
4. Of course, talk to donors. When you make thank-you calls or at other less formal times, ask donors why they’re involved. There may be a story you haven’t heard yet. And the conversation can build your connection with the donor.
5. Recheck your history. The “story” that started your organization is probably compelling and may not have been told in a while.
6. Don’t forget pictures. Keep a camera handy to record the wonderful moments you or staff are witness to.
7. A mini voice recorder is handy too. It’s easier to capture the life of the story when your source “tells” the story in his/her own words and without interruption. Preserving the conversational tone of the story adds to its authenticity; don’t edit too much out!
8. Challenge a staff member or two to go in search of stories. A staff member may uncover a different set of stories than you would, and may open a whole new line of thought for you. (Not to mention, give you a break!)
Build an inventory of stories. Keep the search ongoing. (Going in search of a story right at the time you need it is not the best time to get results.) With multiple stories in your stash, you’ll be able to find the right one for the audience you’re writing for.