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Fundraising & Storytelling: Why You Have to Tell Stories



Raising money for your mission involves sharing with potential donors the problem or injustice that you are trying to solve.


Just sharing the naked truth about the problem your organization works to solve can cause people to turn a deaf ear.


The problem you solve is not attractive. It can cause people to turn away and not listen. This is where visionary storytelling takes the horrible problem your mission addresses and makes it attractive and compelling.


Making the problem your mission solves involves wrapping the naked truth about the problem your organization solves in story. Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that this makes your message twenty-two times more memorable.


Telling the naked truth will kill your fundraising.


Telling the naked truth will keep you poor.

 

Go ahead, try it. Just tell your boss that his idea sucks. Tell your friend the naked truth about their weaknesses.


Wrapping the facts about your organization with stories makes your message twenty-two times more memorable. - Jerome Bruner

 

Visionary fundraisers know that telling the truth makes people free, but first, it makes them miserable. This is where storytelling comes in. Storytelling takes a gentler approach and minimizes potential resistance.


The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable.

 

This is why one of the most revered teachers in the world said he used storytelling:


That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. - Matthew 13:13 - MSG

 

All Jesus did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. - Matthew 13:34 MSG

  

In her book, The Story Factor, Annette Simmons tells of a time when storytelling brought her success:

 

A roomful of stubborn executives locked in an impasse can be a dangerous place for a truth-teller—unless you know how to tell a good story. In these situations I use a little teaching story about my adopted greyhound, Larry. Larry has never learned that when he walks on one side of a telephone pole and I walk on the other—all forward movement stops. Larry just looks up at me with his little dog face wondering why we aren’t going anywhere. I could tell him all day long to back up, but he won’t back up until I back up. Once I back up, he follows. Only then can we disentangle ourselves and move on.

 

When I tell that little story to a roomful of executives, they know I am not really talking about my dog. I’m not being manipulative. My meaning is transparent. The truth is right out there, and yet because the truth is clothed in a story, they let it in. They don’t slam the door in my face. They listen, and more often than not, they back off their positions, disentangle themselves from their impasse, and move on.

 

Visionary fundraisers study the art and science of storytelling.

Visionary fundraisers read books about storytelling.

Visionary fundraisers attend seminars about storytelling.

Visionary fundraisers engage each other around storytelling.

 

Visionary fundraisers raise more money when they begin to understand the power of storytelling.

 

David

 

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