Best Storytelling Strategies for Fundraisers – Tools & Tips

Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling

If you send appeal letters and emails to donors several times a year, “Best Storytelling Strategies for Fundraisers – Tool & Tips” will provide keys to crafting compelling stories. Donors will feel understood and be more motivated to donate to your organization.

Psychology of Donating

Your organization exists because there’s a problem that needs solving. Donors are essential to solving the problem, and they do this by donating to your organization.

When a donor contributes to your organization, they do so because it satisfies their dream to do something good, and to belong to something greater than themselves. The donation is representative of the donor’s role in solving a problem.

Therefore, to help uncover what that means, and how it applies to storytelling, there are a few questions for you to ponder: Why do you need the donor’s help? What does the donor need to do to solve this particular problem? What more can you do with their help? What’s in it for them?

Strategies for Writing Donor Responsive Stories

Three Elements Needed for Every Fundraising Letter and Email Appeal

To motivate donors to give, there are three basic elements needed for any fundraising letter or email appeal. These three elements are: presenting a problem, offering a solution, and including dollar-value statements.

Presenting a Problem

In your story write about a specific problem you want the donor to solve. No matter what your cause, it’s in existence because there is a need to be met and a problem to be solved.

Do you need to feed more hungry people, house more homeless, or provide veterinary care for neglected animals? Clearly state to the donor the problem you want solved.

An example of a problem statement is, “Veterinary care is needed for abandoned cats.” Once you have pinpointed the problem, offer a solution.

Offering a Solution

Tell a story about why the donor is needed to become part of the solution and what the donor needs to do to help solve the problem.

Ask the donor to help solve the problem by making a donation. The donation is the solution.

Ask yourself, why is the donor is needed? How will their gift make a difference?

An example of a solution statement is, “Your generous gift will help provide veterinary care for abandoned cats.” Once you have a problem and a solution, add a dollar value statement to the story.

Including Dollar Value Statements

Every story and appeal should include an array of dollar values that are associated with various solutions.

Dollar value statements convey transparency. It answers the question about how the donor’s hard-earned money will be spent. It lets donors know how far their donation will go towards helping something tangible.

An example of a dollar value statement is; “Your generous donation of $50 will help provide veterinary care for two abandoned cats.”

How to Improve Storytelling

Gather Great Stories

The entire organization’s job is to collect stories, including staff and volunteers, especially those who are out in the field. Every organization has stories to tell about a person who needs help or a cause that requires a solution. Utilize those stories in direct mail appeal letters, emails, and on social media to their full extent.

Best Storytelling Strategies for Fundraisers – Tools & Tips

Types of Stories to Tell

Tangible Stories

Tell stories about something tangible. Stories about a family in need or an abandoned animal are tangible. When a donor is clear about how their donation helps someone or something in need, they are more inclined to donate. If the story asks for a donation for something abstract, donors will not be comfortable donating.

Heartfelt, Emotion-Filled Stories

Harness the power of storytelling by painting a picture with feelings and thoughts. This creates an emotional connection that inspires readers to donate.

An example of telling is: “Mary was cold and living on the street.”

An example of showing is: “Mary shivered. Pulling the thin sweater across her shoulders, tears streamed down her rosy cheeks. She stood on line, waiting for a hot bowl of soup, wondering if there’d be enough food for her child.”

Showing a need, rather then telling about a need, creates an emotional connection. Donors can feel, in their hearts, a tangible problem.

Use the Word, “You”

When writing a letter, use the word “you,” rather than the words “I” or “we.” The word “you” directly addresses the donor and creates a personal connection.

Lead with Gratitude

Thank every donor for each donation they make. A thank you goes a long way in making the donor feel appreciated and valued.

Include Emotional Images

Convey your message with photos, as a good photo can promote a strong message. Consider using images of those you serve for an emotional punch. Add an inspiring quote to the photo for even better results. Studies have shown that close-ups of smiling people create an emotional connection with readers.


Videos are an ideal medium for telling a story showcasing a tangible need in a short amount of time (60-seconds). It’s also a powerful medium, combining two modes of processing: visual and audio, making it easier for donors to consume and synthesize the information presented.

It can be difficult to get donors to pay attention to your appeals. “Best Storytelling Strategies for Fundraising – Tools & Tips” will provide the keys to crafting compelling appeal letters and email appeals that will make your donors feel understood. In turn, this will result in more donations for your organization.

If you are short on staff or just don’t have enough time to write your own donor responsive appeals, Contact Write Choice Marketing to craft the perfect donor-centric story for your organization.

For more ways to strengthen your fundraising appeals, be sure to implement these 8 Tips for Effective Fundraising Letters.

Write Choice Marketing – Helping nonprofits maximize donations through compelling copy, engaging content, and donor responsive strategies.

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