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Collecting Stories that Inspire Donors

Collecting Stories that Inspire Donors

vanessa chase picGuest Post by Vanessa Chase – The Storytelling Nonprofit

Storytelling is becoming a regular part of fundraising programs and for good reasons. It is a powerful tool that helps organizations emotionally connect donors to their impact. According to a recent NPR story, anecdotally telling someone how they can help one person means they are more likely to make after. But sometimes storytelling can be easier said than done.

If you work in fundraising or communications, you may not have direct access to your organization’s amazing stories or worse, there may be a silo in your way. I’ve talked to countless nonprofit professionals in the last few years who have faced these problems and I can certainly relate from my own experiences. Another common barrier to storytelling is interviewing, which can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before. You may feel nervous. The interviewee may be nervous. It can be a recipe for an awkward interview.

Some organizations who face these issues will share short testimonials as an alternative to a story. Sometimes that can be better than nothing, but today I want to offer you a few tips to move past testimonials to share the full, inspiring story.

Tip #1 Build better relationships with your colleagues. Collaboration is how great stories are told. This can start with something as simple as getting to know your co-workers and building a trusting relationship with them. Having these relationships will make finding and collecting stories significantly easier. Take them for a coffee, have lunch together, chit chat around the water cooler.

Tip #2 Get some back story before you start asking questions. I’ve often thought that 75% of storytelling is just listening. It is so important to just listen and try to understand the shape of the story. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to people who know the interviewee ahead of time to get some of the back story. Other times it is good to just let the interviewee talk as much as possible.

Tip #3 During the interview ask open ended questions. It’s very easy to conduct a quick interview and assume you have everything you need to write the story. Except when you sit down to write you find you have only the bare bones. Sound familiar? When you’re interviewing someone it is always good to come prepared with a few questions. But you should also be prepared to let the conversation go where it may and ask questions that push it a bit further. These deep conversations require some level of vulnerability and for this to feel comfortable, it’s always a good idea to build rapport with the interviewee and to respect their boundaries. Here are a few examples of open-ended questions:

–       How did you feel when . . .?

–       When did you start to experience changes in your life?

–       Tell me about . . .?

–       How did you . . .?

Tip #4 When you start writing, give yourself a word minimum. If brevity is an issue for you, consider giving yourself a world minimum for stories. I like to aim for around 500 words. If you are struggling to reach the minimum, pause and read through your story. At the end of each sentence ask yourself, “Is there any more detail or explanation that I could add here?” Sometimes this simple act will help you find ways to improve the story.

Tip #5 Find a proof reader. Not only can a proof reader help you spot spelling and grammatical errors, they can provide you with editorial feedback. For instance – does the story make sense? Does it feel like there’s something missing? What else would you like to know?

I hope these tips will help you tell great stories this year! Vanessa.

Liked Vanessa’s advice about storytelling? She has an upcoming webinar on How to Create your Storytelling Plan for 2015. The webinar date is January 21 2015. 

Storytelling Plan Webinar from Vanessa Chase