Storytelling for Effective Fundraising – Tools & Tips

Storytelling for Effective Fundraising, Tools &Tips will help provide strategies for crafting donor responsive appeals.

If you send appeal letters and emails to donors several times a year, these tips will motivate your donors to not only make a donation but will be inspired to stay around longer. What this means is that your donors will continue donating for years to come.

Whatever your cause, it’s in existence because there’s a problem to solve, meaning there is a need that has not yet been met. Donors are essential to meeting that need. However, in order for donors to be motivated to give, they need to be communicated in a way in which they feel understood.

Storytelling for Effective Fundraising, Tools &Tips will provide the keys to crafting compelling appeal letters and email appeals that will make your donors feel understood which in turn will result in more donations for your organization.

Storytelling for Effective Fundraising – Tools & Tips

Psychology of Donating

Make the donor the hero…not your organization

When a donor makes a contribution it is about satisfying the donor’s dreams and needs. Therefore, to help uncover what that means, here are a few questions for you to ponder. What does the donor need to do to ease the problem? Why do you need the donor? What more can you do with their help? What’s in it for them?

Don’t focus on what your nonprofit needs. Focus on the donor’s role and how they can help.

The Problem, Solution & Dollar Value

The keys to fundraising communication

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 a dollar value.

Convey a Problem

State a problem that has not yet been solved

Write about a specific problem you want the donor to solve. Do you need to feed more hungry people, house more homeless, or provide veterinary care for neglected animals? Whatever your cause, it’s in existence because there’s a problem to solve, meaning there is a need that has not yet been met.

An example of a problem statement is, “Help is needed for abandoned cats.”

The Solution

Why is the donor is needed?

How will their gift make a difference?

Write about how the donor will help to solve the problem and become part of the solution. The donor will solve the problem by making a donation. Asking for a donation and stating what the donation will accomplish will motivate donors to give.

An example of a solution statement is, “Your gift will help provide veterinary care for abandoned cats.”

Dollar Value

In your story, include an array of dollar values associated with a variety of solutions. Inform donors as to how their hard-earned money will be spent. Providing dollar value to the solution conveys transparency. 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 an abandoned cat.”

Gather Great Stories

Storytelling for Effective Fundraising – Tools & Tips

Collecting stories is the job of the entire organization. That includes staff and volunteers, especially those who are out in the field. Every organization has stories to tell about someone or something who is in need of help. Utilize those stories in direct mail appeal letters, emails, and on social media to their full extent.

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 can perceive where their donation is going, 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

Show, don’t tell

When writing a story for a direct mail fundraising letter or for digital fundraising, show, don’t tell. Harness the power of storytelling by painting a picture with feelings and thoughts. It creates an emotional connection that inspires readers to make a donation.

An example of telling is; Mary was cold and living on the street. An example of showing is; “Pulling the thin sweater tighter across her shoulders, Mary shivered and yearned for a hot meal.”

Utilize heartfelt copy to convey a concrete problem about something tangible. Create an emotional connection with donors, giving them a role in the solution.

Use the Word, You

Utilize the word “you” instead of the words “I” or “we.” The word “you” directly addresses the donor and creates a personal connection.

Lead with Gratitude

Always thank the donor for their last gift. A thank you goes a long way in making the donor feel appreciated and valued.

Include Emotional Images

Convey your impact with photos

A good photo can convey 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 one or two people smiling emotionally connect with readers.


Video is 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 because it combines two modes of processing, visual and audio, making it easier for donors to consume and synthesize the information presented.

Storytelling for Effective Fundraising – Tools & Tips

It can be difficult to get donors to pay attention and engage in what you are saying in your appeals. Fundraising copy should highlight a problem, offer a solution, and include a dollar value. Combining these three elements into one succinct statement makes an emotional impact that will motivate donors to give.

Donors will also be more likely to stay with your organization long-term, which ultimately results in additional funds for your organization’s cause.

Therefore, when writing your next appeal letter, implement Storytelling for Effective Fundraising – Tools & Tips. These effective fundraising copywriting strategies will make your donors feel understood, inspire giving, and enhance your relationship with your donors.

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

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.

Whether it’s one appeal letter, a sequence of renewal letters, or a series of emails, we’ll write stories that will raise more money for your organization. For help with writing compelling fundraising stories, contact Write Choice Marketing.

Please share our content! Thank you!

Leave a Comment