An effective and emotive narrative is one of the most important tools in your fundraising toolkit. Find out how you can improve your storytelling
This article is sponsored by Sage Intacct – the non-profit financial management platform that lets you pursue your mission more efficiently with a sophisticated multidimensional database that allows users to aggregate transactions and activities across your non-profit organisation.
Relationships between charities and supporters rely on establishing an emotional connection. This connection is at the heart of fundraising – people will not donate to a charity to which they do not feel connected. Charities must nurture and grow that connection to build long-term relationships with donors.
Building a connection begins with a cause. Donors feel strongly about a particular issue and they want to do something to address it. They find a charity whose mission aligns closely with this cause and make a donation.
Fundraisers have a tendency to view the process of narrative creation as something vague, rather than an exact science. By understanding and mastering the process, charities can learn to tell their stories more effectively and thereby increase donations.
Amid an uncertain economic climate, charities will rely on supporters more than ever. While much of the focus around storytelling is usually dedicated to new donors, storytelling can also play an important role in maintaining and improving relationships with existing donors.
This is important because the best place to raise additional funds is often from your existing donor base. Staying connected to your existing donors and keeping your impact front of mind can help you to ensure a longer-term stream of revenue.
A new report, published by Sage Intacct, delves into the art of charity storytelling and provides data-driven insights into what donors want to see from the charities they donate to.
Understanding the needs of donors is crucial. It is easy to make assumptions, but that means running the risk of misunderstanding what your donors want. Instead, you should roll up your sleeves, dig deep into the data, and find out exactly what it is that donors value about your organisation, your mission, and your work.
Sage’s ‘Non-profit storytelling ebook’ reveals that 70% of donors cite ‘overall efficiency’ as the number one thing supporters look for before donating. They want to ensure money is spent on delivering tangible progress towards the charity’s mission.
Charities will need to prove this efficiency, and to place it front and centre when it comes to storytelling. Other important factors driving donations were in a similar vein, including a charity’s ‘philanthropic impact’ and ‘general reputation.’
Your fundraising initiatives should highlight efficiency and impact. Make trust and transparency key pillars of your narrative, too. Demonstrate precisely how donations are allowing you to work towards your mission.
Many charities like to frame the impact of a single donation in easy to understand terms. One example is a message informing donors that a £5.00 donation can buy two meals for a service user. Or that £100 can secure clean water for an entire village. Both examples situate donations in the wider narrative of a charity’s work and mission. They contextualise the donation and give the donor assurance that their money will be spent prudently.
With access to the internet, prospective donors can easily carry out research on charities. Donors care deeply about finding organisations that best reflect their values and priorities. They want evidence of solid financial stewardship and strong mission impact.
If they can’t easily understand your organisation’s story, their donations may go somewhere else. Similarly, if impact is not clearly communicated and efficiency is not clearly demonstrated, supporters are unlikely to become donors.
The top question on most donor’s minds: How much of my money will go to the charity’s programmes and field work? If you can’t spend money efficiently, donors would prefer to give it to a charity that can.
Clearly communicate your priorities and demonstrate your progress. Performance data and metrics provide the support for your story by showing impact, accountability, and a laser-focus on mission success.
charity:water provide a great example. They operate on a basis of complete transparency, allowing donors to choose how their donation is used. Increasing transparency creates trust with the supporter and makes them feel involved in the process, which in turn establishes a deeper emotional connection.
Whatever your mission, define the metrics that best support impact and stewardship and measure them. Build them into your story. Highlight them, strengthen them, and share them. Reinforce performance measurement and transparency until metrics become part of your organisation’s culture.
The report also found generational differences in giving, with two generations – Baby Boomers (1946–1964) and Generation X (1965–1980) – responsible for approximately two-thirds of donations.
These different generations will require different communications strategies. The Silent Generation (1928–1945) still appreciates direct mail communications, for example, while Millennials (1981–1996) and Generation Z (1997–early 2010s) will rarely respond to such communications.
Novel forms of communications are particularly defined by generational differences. Millennials and Gen Z respond more to social media and mobile campaigns.
But, importantly, all generations respond positively to websites, which makes it arguably the most important fundraising communication tool at your disposal.
When it comes to fundraising, the medium is the message. By establishing who your audience are, you can ascertain the best channels through which to reach them. This, in turn, can allow you to tailor your storytelling to the methods that work best across those channels.
Digital communications platforms, such as email or social media, lend themselves to simple and effective personalisation. This will ensure that donors are more likely to feel your communications are relevant to them.
In today’s mobile age, it is also important to ensure communications are optimised for email. This is particularly true when considering how to optimise social media or email communications.
The most important part of building a narrative is framing your mission in a clear, relatable, and emotive way. The most immediate way to do that is through the use of imagery. Powerful images grab attention, connect you with potential donors, and clearly highlight the importance and impact of your mission, engaging donors on an emotional level.
Ensure your website, social media channels, and other communications emphasise the narrative and reflect your brand. Your brand can help donors to remember your organisation and mission, which translates to greater responsiveness to your campaigns and your needs. Make messaging and branding a primary part of your strategic plan and integrate your brand into all of your communications.
All aspects of your brand, such as images, websites, and other forms of messaging, should work together to draw your donors into a deeper connection with your mission. Finding the best way to communicate your mission, priorities, and impact are critical elements to telling your story well and reminding donors why you need their support.
Sage Intacct have launched the ‘Non-profit Storytelling’ ebook as part of their mission to leverage Sage’s cutting-edge technology to empower charities, non-profits and social good causes with the insight necessary to make the right decisions.
The free digital resource offers data-driven insights to support charity marketing teams in building effective narratives that resonate with potential supporters. The report examines what drives engagement with charity narratives and provides information on what donors look for in a charity campaign.
The free digital resource even offers tools for mapping generational differences in donation habits – to ensure that you have all the insight you need to plan campaigns that communicate effectively with your core demographics.
Download this free digital resource to learn more.
Download the ‘Non-profit storytelling’ e-book to learn more