Using a story helps the reader put themselves in the place of being able to help that specific beneficiary. The story fires in parts of the brain where the reader can experience the emotions in the story. When you tell a story of transformation, the reader can actually feel how the beneficiary feels having his life changed. Let’s take a look at two real appeals from nonprofits:
Children across America and around the world are hungry and waiting for your help. Your gift will supply them with food and essentials.
Hunger is a daily reality for boys and girls across America. You can make a difference for children in need with your gift today.
Even if only one child goes to bed hungry tonight America, thats one too many. No child should have to live in fear, wondering where their next meal will come from.
In this email appeal, there was no personalized Dear Jeremy line, but instead opened with the line above. At the end below the text was a “Donate Now” button. Contrast the first email with this one from a different nonprofit organization:
Will you help me put a big smile on the face of a hungry and hurting little boy like 6 year old Tony? It’s hard to believe here in America, especially this time of year, but just a few weeks ago, Tony was going to bed hungry nearly every night. His family simply didn’t make enough to consistently serve a healthy dinner. Instead, Tony would only get nourishment in his school lunch.
But then friends like you stepped in and provided meals for Tony and his family. You turned around Tony’s holiday season so now he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal will come from. His parents don’t need to decide between paying for heat or buying groceries.
You can put food and other essentials into the hands of children like Tony.
The appeal continues on to the call to action. Do you see how, though both appeals focused on hunger, the second appeal connected you to the cause? It helped you see the face of hunger in Tony and put yourself into the shoes of the donor that helped Tony and his family. The first appeal is still common with many nonprofits – using statistics instead of stories. When you put a face onto the problem you’re solving, you allow the reader to feel the transformation and believe she can make an impact on a real life.
Stories are a Part of Being Human
We have a long tradition of storytelling. For many people, telling stories is the ideal way for them to learn. Telling a story helps someone connect with a storyteller in a unique way. Several studies have shown that the brain stimulation that occurs during storytelling has a unique way of syncing to the same areas of the brain firing between a storyteller and someone hearing the story. In other words, the reader or listener can feel and think the same as the storyteller. If you tell a compassionate story that moves someone to get involved, you can actually like the thoughts of the storyteller to the story listener. This is a powerful way to move someone to become involved with your nonprofit.
Every Appeal Should Have a Story
Every appeal you send out should have a story. If your nonprofit supports abandoned puppies, you should tell the story of Jack the Terrier who was abandoned, rescued, treated, and placed in a good home. If you work with homeless veterans, tell the story of Bill, the vet who found shelter, food, job training, and now has his own place and a steady job. No matter your cause, a story will connect someone who has a passion for the cause with your organization to support those beneficiaries. Without a story, a fundraising appeal lacks the punch to move the reader to donate. Sure, you may raise a little money with statistics, but a story that connects the reader to real live person moves people to give.