In nonprofit fundraising, telling the story of someone who has directly benefited from an organization’s services is the most effective way to move a potential donor to action. Finding such a story can be difficult, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should take the easy route.
No matter what kind of time crunch you’re in, resist the temptation to:
1. Use a board member’s story.
Maybe a member of your board of directors was once a beneficiary or an on-the-ground volunteer. But if they’re on the board during the fundraising campaign, find someone else to feature in your campaign. Telling a real person’s story gives your organization credibility, so don’t run the risk of negating your authenticity by using an insider.
2. Select a subject by consensus.
Your internal team is not the audience. Each of you is too invested in your own view of your nonprofit to be objective. You also may be biased toward a candidate because you know the person, or you may have other biases you’re not even aware of (most of us do). Given all that baggage, getting everyone to agree on the story to feature in a fundraising campaign too often devolves into selecting the lowest common denominator. Seek advice from outside your inner circle.
3. Use a story simply because a big donor suggests it.
Donors, staff and volunteers undoubtedly are your best sources for story subjects. However, that doesn’t mean you should select a particular subject simply to please them. Doubling your fundraising results from last year will please them much more than using a story that doesn’t illustrate your message or move your audience to action.
4. Let communications and development staff find stories in silos.
I could (and will) write an entire post about why communications and development departments that work together get the best results. In the 2017 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, only 34% of communications staff reported being consulted about fundraising decisions. These organizations are missing out – and giving yours a chance to get ahead. Be the nonprofit that keeps territorialism out of the discussion, and you’ll see truly stunning results.
All this boils down to one thing: Don’t let too much of an internal focus derail your fundraising efforts. Keep your target audience and the behavior you want them to exhibit at the forefront when you’re selecting someone to feature in your fundraising materials.