Everyone knows that to be an outstanding fundraiser you must be an outstanding storyteller. But that knowledge isn’t nearly enough because…
i) Everyone knows it so everyone’s doing it.
There are 180, 000 registered charities, with countless more too small to register. Last year our sector sent over 166 million pieces of DM. Millions more conversations are held on the street, door and phone. And you can’t blink without being asked to text a donation to something. All try to tell their story to a diminishing number of donors who’ve heard it all before.
ii) We don’t just compete with each other.
How many adverts do you think you’ll have seen by the end of the day? 50? 500? The answer, on average, is 1600, and yours is just one of them. As the great George Smith said “The consumer does not separate the commercial mail from the fundraising mail and save the latter for more earnest consideration. Junk mail is junk mail, no matter how diverse the motives of the mailer”.
iii) Knowing you have to tell a story doesn’t make you a storyteller.
We have access to the most powerful, emotive stories on the face of the earth. But we’re not very good storytellers. A recent Ph.D. study of over 2000 online and direct mail fundraising documents concluded the way we communicate is “…overly formal, cold, detached, and abstract.”
How can we get it so wrong? In our rush to tell a story we forgot it’s not a story at all. Before you wrote it someone lived it. But the raw authentic voice of our beneficiary is sterilized because we worry it won’t be signed off. Emotional impact is lost because beneficiaries are off brand.
Fundraisers face these obstacles every day. So, along with my friend the brilliant Lucy ‘Innovation’ Gower, I presented proven principles on how to overcome them at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention. Being voted by my peers as a top speaker has made my Monday. But the real reward will be hearing from those who’ve used the session to make their fundraising stand out…