Stories vs. Stats

You have 3 minutes to make a fundraising ask at an event.

Or 1 page to create a compelling e-appeal.

Or 30 seconds to spark someone’s interest when you first meet them.

Do you start with a story? Or statistics?

Most organizations I see go for the statistics. But they’re wrong (sorry!).

Stories are like a secret fundraising weapon, yet so few organizations know how to use them and how to tell them.

Stories can open people up, change their minds and build empathy. It’s amazing actually - listening to stories activates our brains. Literally.

Of course, when we listen to a story, the language parts of our brains start lighting up. But here’s the interesting part. The part of our brain that we use when we experience events also lights up.

So, to our brain, it’s as if we’re experiencing that event ourselves.

Cool, huh?

There’s also research to show that stories increase generosity.

According to Network for Good, a large donor advised fund based in the states, donors give tend to give twice as much when presented with a story about an affected individual, as opposed to reading abstract numbers of the overall scope of a problem.

Here are two tips to help you use stories more effectively for your organization.

The story of ONE

Think of a great movie. There is one character to follow on a journey. You want your fundraising stories to be about one person who has been helped or impacted by your organization. Not 5 different testimonials. Not a few compelling quotes. But a journey of one individual, with a clear before and after.

Make it personal

Stories are a especially great for fundraising volunteers and board members to help them spread the word about your organization. Telling a story in place of a typical “elevator pitch” helps spark interest in others.

The story you tell should be personal to you, as much as possible. What experience have you had with your organization (as a staff or volunteer) that has moved you? Did you meet the person whose story you are telling? Did you see first-hand the impact of your organization? Your personal passion for the story is contagious, so if you don’t have a story that’s personal, find a way to find one.