Last fall I attended the Anabaptist Communicator’s Conference. This is an annual gathering drawing communicators from MC USA and MC Canada including editors, writers, recruiters, pastors, directors and many more people looking to enhance their communications with our Anabaptist sisters and brothers.
One seminar I attended was lead by Rebekah Burch Basinger. She has been instrumental in guiding Mennonite Women USA in powerful asking which results in generous giving. Her seminar “Fundraising and Storytelling: Asking that Touches Hearts and Inspires Imaginations” was brilliant. Even though I am not at the forefront of asking individuals for support, I am part of the creation of communications, so her seminar was particularly relevant.
Rebekah lead with this truth about storytelling as part of fundraising:
Storytelling is integral to every phase of fundraising, from making the case for support, to asking for gifts, to saying thank you, to building donor loyalty.
There are many ways storytelling inspires generous giving but the one that has stuck with me the most is how specificity over generality wins every time. Statistics don’t leave the kind of immediate impression a story can that zeroes in on the humanity of a single person or a single family. I get this because when I’m solicited to give to an organization percentage signs and bulleted facts do less for my heart than a quote and a picture of someone transformed by an organization. That approach inspires me to pay attention. After all…a lot can get our attention but keeping that attention is another thing altogether.
“If I look at the masses, I will never act. If I look at one, I will.” -Mother Teresa
The next challenge was for our seminar to brainstorm where we can look for inspiring stories within our organization. The good news: they’re there and they’re often untapped. Asking donors what has been significant in their lives often draws out stories. Searching employee blogs, staff reports or other social media outlets where stories are being shared is a great place to look. Tapping into those places can reveal a trove of stories needing sharing!
Patience + Courage = Well-Crafted Stories
Rebekah reminded the group that while gathering stories for inspired giving can be fun, the next part is crucial and requires patience and courage. The crafting stage of asking requires specific attention to your supporters. Begin with the end. “If you don’t know where the story is headed, it’s guaranteed the listener won’t either,” said Rebekah. Considering how the end will land needs to be foremost in your mind when creating a focused ask.
For every 2 stories, include a fact
Stories and statistics in an appeal don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they can go hand-in-hand, but Rebekah called on our seminar to think about our organizations and our ways of asking for support in creative ways–especially when it comes to providing facts and statistics. Yes, always have a story or two and then bolster those with statistics that complement or reinforce the personal transformation. More importantly charts, sidebars and infographics are simple ways to turn stale lists of stats into engaging information.
Storytelling + Fundraising in the 21st Century
The landscape has changed. Our attention spans are shorter. There is a lot of noise in the social media world…a lot vying for our attention. What this means is our asking has to be authentic, concise (Rebekah reminded us it used to be about word count…but now it is about character count) and visual. Pictures, infographics, videos, snippets: these are the tools of asking for generosity in today’s saturated market.
There was SO MUCH amazing information and content from Rebekah. Her gifts and instruction really moved people. I never considered how creative and beautiful it can be to ask for support. She inspired a new way of being among our supporters.
Thank you, Rebekah!
Follow Rebekah’s blog Generous Matters: “I created Generous Matters as a place to reflect publicly on issues that dominate my thinking. On most days, those include fundraising, board governance, stewardship, faithfulness, and generosity in all its forms.”