Why do we continue to write boring fundraising materials and grant proposals that ask for our readers’ stamina rather than their enjoyment? Storytelling isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay and will remain the preferred way we learn information.
Some of the most memorable fundraising materials I worked on in my past life as a development director were the pieces that involved telling a unique story about why a donor supported the university. One campaign in particular, we asked donors to vote for his/her favorite professor with a donation and a story about the instructor. The gifts came pouring in that year because people love to tell a good story as much as they like to hear one.
Captivate your donors
Our latest Page to PracticeTM book feature of Storytelling for Grantseekers by Chery Clarke not only addresses the often daunting task of grantwriting but the numerous ways you can captivate your audience with a good story in your fundraising communications.
Storytelling and development collateral can intersect in the following ways:
- The elevator speech can use an effective hook. An elevator speech can be translated into a powerful, concise, revised version of your mission statement.
- A grant proposal for general operating support can serve as an agency’s internal case statement. External case statements must tell compelling, emotional stories.
- Appeal letters have the most obvious connection to storytelling because they need to be vivid and persuasive for people to donate.
- In a brochure, the stories can be complemented by visuals.
- Your web site should tell your organization’s story.
- Annual reports, in addition to providing evidence for the agency’s financial health, present another opportunity to relate your story.
- Even though government grant applications are longer and more structured, you can still infuse stories into the need or problem (antagonist) and the objectives sections.
If you keep the storytelling approach in mind, you can use it whenever possible, including in sections about your credibility or the sustainability of your program. However, storytelling is not always appropriate given the space limitations and formal tone of government applications. With more practice, you will know when it is appropriate and when it isn’t. Even though some parts of grant writing are technical, such as the goals and objectives section, persuasive writing can transfer to many careers, including marketing, technical writing, journalism, speechwriting and more.
Join us for our next live author interview in our monthly series at CausePlanet and ask Cheryl Clarke all of your burning questions or simply listen to gather all of her helpful insights. Clarke recently released the second edition of her popular book Storytelling for Grantseekers: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising.
It’s chock full of useful techniques for nonprofit communications of any kind-from newsletters and appeals to annual reports and, of course, grants. Our interview will touch on Clarke’s book and much more through our interview questions.
If you found this glimpse into our book feature helpful, consider subscribing to our summary library of recommended nonprofit and corporate titles or visit our summary store for a la carte choices. You can also sample a summary for free.