Year-end fundraising through the lens of storytelling

Don’t panic, but year-end is just around the corner. That means that for all of our nonprofit friends, to put it lightly, it’s a big season for fundraising. 

While we don’t claim to be the know-it-all fundraising experts, we’ve learned a few things over the years about raising money. And especially from the perspective of a storytelling culture, there’s a lot you can do to both show and tell impact in a way that’s meaningful to your supporters. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while crafting your year-end fundraising efforts.

DON’T make it all about the great things you’ve done.

Of course, your nonprofit is the one taking in donations and turning them into the life-changing, problem-solving efforts the world needs. However, a dose of humility rarely hurts. 

Keep in mind the people who make your efforts possible. Donors at all levels of giving, volunteers, partner organizations, staff, your local community, and others are all working together to accomplish goals. So one of the worst things you can do for your fundraising is to communicate in a way that says “You should be so grateful for us”.

Instead, highlight the ways people have come together to help meet needs and make change happen. And thank them directly for their work – gratitude goes a long way! No matter your mission, make sure to correctly place the focus: outside your organization.

With that being said…

DO give specific examples, numbers, and (our favorite) stories of those you’ve impacted. 

“Lots of people go through homelessness.”

“Out of 8,000 surveyed, only 100 responded positively to this statement.”

“50% of college graduates don’t feel prepared to enter their field following graduation.”

What do these statements have in common? They’re impersonal.

The first sentence, while true, is non-specific. Though the second sentence provides more detail, it feels far more informative than interesting. The third sentence has a simple statistic that’s easy to grasp, but there’s a way to make it better: telling it through a story.

“She’d worked toward this accomplishment her entire life: college graduation. Being a first generation graduate living thousands of miles from home, however, Laura felt largely unprepared for life after classes, papers, and projects. Laura’s situation isn’t an unusual one, though; roughly half of all U.S. college graduates say they feel unprepared in the workforce following graduation.

“But that’s where your help has bridged the gap for young adults without family or other trusted leaders nearby. This year, through our mentorship program, we’ve seen 100 college graduates come out of our program this year with a new job in their field – and a fresh sense of confidence.

“Without you, we could never provide this needed help to young adults here in metro Chicago. Would you give today to help invest in our young generation of the workforce?”

By telling even just a little bit of Laura’s background, the reader is drawn in and can plainly see the usefulness of this nonprofit’s mentorship program. Plus, they can see what their giving accomplishes. And by adding a great photo, you further connect the reader with this person.

DON’T be afraid to ask for what you need. 

In Laura’s story above, a clear call-to-action was provided, ensuring readers know what to do. Not doing so can lead to reader confusion and stress and keeps you from receiving the assistance you’re looking for. 

At the end of the day, your fundraising message has one main purpose: to raise funds. So don’t shy away from that purpose.