The Stories You’re Not Telling | Why Your Nonprofit Is Struggling To Raise Donations

The Stories You’re Not Telling | Why Your Nonprofit Is Struggling To Raise Donations

Chances are, your nonprofit relies on a variety of revenue streams to fund its operations. And it’s also likely that charitable contributions are a key source of financial support.

If your organization is struggling to meet its fundraising goals, it may be time to reevaluate your fundraising strategies.

The focus of this post is storytelling as a fundraising strategy for your nonprofit, and how telling the stories of those around you could be the key to raising more funds from donors.

What’s the Real Issue Here?

Why is it such a challenge to raise funds? What’s the reason your organization is struggling to gather donor support?

I’d dare to say that the reason people aren’t giving has nothing to do with the worthiness of your cause, the level of passion you have, or the amount you’re asking them to give. It’s a matter of connection, or lack thereof.

Parting with hard-earned money isn’t easy. Whether you’re a philanthropist or not, giving to a nonprofit requires a strong conviction in the cause. We need to feel connected with its purpose in order to support it.

So the question is, how do you facilitate that connection? In other words, what do you share with people that they can resonate with?

Building Connections Through Story

It’s not easy to craft and deliver a presentation that’s compelling enough to make potential donors part with their money. But that’s what we often try to do when meeting with them. We build our best presentation by gathering some quotes from significant people and we mix them in with the plethora of informational content we plan to share. And our secret weapon to create a lasting impression? Statistics.

Statistics can be shocking, and very interesting too. Take for example that 1 in 10 people, or approximately 815 million, suffer from chronic undernourishment. Or that 66 million girls in Africa don’t have access to education. Shocking, right? But it also seems overwhelming and insurmountable, which leads to inaction. So rather than sharing a number, what if we told you a story about Ana and shared with you how she wakes up every morning at 4am, just to be able to walk 6 miles to school and give herself an education. And what if we showed you how Ana’s dad struggled through 3 jobs in order to pay for Ana’s schooling. And then what if we shared with you how you could help girls like Ana afford a quality education. Now that’s powerful and something people can rally behind. Viewers can actually feel like their contributions will make an impact and help change the lives of girls in Africa.

Of all the information you share with people, it’s not the numbers that we connect with. We connect with you, the people your organization serves, and the mission it champions.

We feel connected to people, animals, places, things- through hearing their stories. So if you’re not telling those stories to potential donors, what are you leaving them to connect with?

“‘If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the
one, I will.’’ – Mother Theresa

This concept, that even Mother Theresa believed to be true, has been confirmed by behavioral research studies. In a study published by the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes Journal, researchers found that donors were willing to donate twice as much when there was an identifiable victim vs an identifiable statistic.

Telling Stories That Only You Can Tell

There’s a story behind every organization, and behind every individual within it. So, whose story do you tell?

Should you share a narrative about:

  • the history of your nonprofit?
  • the journey of your fundraising efforts?
  • the culture within your organization?

Those narratives sound nice to us, because they’re about us. The hard truth is, other people don’t care about those things as much as we do.

The stories you tell should be about those you serve. And the focus should be on their struggles, their dreams, their needs, and the transformation that has occurred in their lives as a result of your organization’s efforts.

Those are the stories that engage people, elicit empathy, and drive action. And those are the stories that only you can tell.

Why Video Is the Best Medium

Choosing the right story to share is a crucial piece in connecting with potential donors. And choosing the best medium for telling the story is just as important.

Of course, as video producers, we’re biased towards video. But there’s a strong case for it in this context, especially.

“It’s not just what you share that matters, but how you share it too.”

You want to let people tell their own stories. But the problem is, most of us aren’t great storytellers. We may have a compelling experience to talk about, but we lack the skills to form our thoughts into a compelling narrative. Sure, we can talk about our first-hand experiences on camera, but we don’t speak in a way that has people hanging on every line.

But through the process of video editing, even the least charismatic of people can shine on screen. As editors, we arrange their testimony into a compelling story and add in music, additional video footage, and some text or graphics as visual aids. Then suddenly, an hour-long interview has transformed into a 2-minute video that informs and inspires those who watch it.

That’s why video is such a versatile and powerful medium for storytelling. With video, the impact of people’s stories isn’t limited by their ability to tell them.

A Fundraising Case Study

We write about this topic because we’ve seen the results. Read about how we helped a local nonprofit raise over $400,000 at one event (a 43% increase from the previous year) using video.

View our case study, The Power of Video Storytelling for Nonprofits.

Schedule a free, no-pressure consultation to discuss your fundraising goals and how we might partner with your nonprofit to help accomplish them with effective video content.

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Mark Rolseth