You need to tell stories to raise more funds for your mission, ministry or nonprofit. But why is that? What exactly is it that stories do?

When I joined David Oaks’ end-of-year fundraising accelerator in August 2021, David and I were experimenting. We worked with eight small organizations and walked them through their end-of-year fundraising. None of these organizations had done year-end campaigns before, and every one did better than they’d ever done. Some saw wild success, but others still struggled. The difference, at least as far as David and I could see, was the ability to tell powerful stories in writing. 

Writing & storytelling make a difference in your fundraising

We talked and we said we have to do something. There has to be some way to help them with their written storytelling projects. That’s when Mission Writers was born. I started Mission Writers in February this year, 2022. The idea was to get writers together and help them help missionaries and small ministries and nonprofits write these stories. We’re still learning and experimenting, but I’ve become even more convinced that this is going to make a tremendous difference for these small organizations’ ability to raise funds. 

Let’s look at some reasons we need to tell stories, and why we need to become skilled storytellers. 

Why Tell Stories?

  • Stories help us connect – When you listen to a story, your brainwaves  actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. 
  • Research shows compelling stories cause our brains to release oxytocin, increase empathy, and have the power to affect our behaviors.
  • Stories help us remember who we are and what we’re about. Donors give to their values. Telling stories that reflect those values help donors make good decisions about whether you’re a good match for them. 
  • Stories reveal truths – your storytelling can help people see the world in a new way. Shift perspectives, overcome prejudices.
  • Stories offer dignity and context for beneficiaries, and give them a voice.
  • Stories put our critical minds aside for a moment, and we willingly enter into the narrative. We try to find ourselves in the story. 
  • Stories give us context to make sense of all those things.

Stories give donors context to see where they fit in accomplishing the mission.

Every known culture tells stories. This is the way we make sense of the world and our place in it. All through the donor journey, especially with people who are not yet aware of you and your mission. Stories help draw them in, and help them get to know, like, and trust you. 

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You don’t just “need a story” to fill a space in your newsletter. You need a story to show donors what they can accomplish by giving to your mission. Where do they fit in this story? Not just through giving, but in the big picture of a world where this thing is a problem. They can reflect their values, glorify God, ease suffering, and experience deep personal satisfaction by stepping into this story and playing an active role.

In our ministries, stories are an invitation into a world most people haven’t experienced. If I live in America and I’m immersed in church culture, and all my friends are Christians, I don’t give much thought to what it’s like to not know who Jesus is. To not have ever seen a bible. So, when you say you need funds to go and preach the gospel, or to live in another culture for several years so they can have a bible in their language, you can’t just start there. You have to bring donors into that world and give context to what you do and why you do it. You do that with stories.

You don’t just “need a story” to fill a space in your newsletter. You need a story to show donors what they can accomplish by giving to your mission. Click To Tweet

Use these questions to think about stories you might tell:

  • What are some of the questions people ask about what you do and why you do it?
  • What are some misconceptions people have?
  • What do you wish people knew?
  • What stories can you tell to donors to help them connect to the hands-on work (specially if your mission is far away, and they are not likely to ever experience it personally)?

I’m convinced one of the most powerful helps for us to tell better stories is to think about why we tell stories in the first place! 

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