Lori Jacobwith is a master storyteller and fundraiser, and the founder of Ignited Fundraising. In this interview, Lori shares her storytelling techniques and explains how they can help you raise more money.
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Watch the full interview above or read the highlights below.
Storytelling for Fundraisers: Donors Must FEEL Something
AE: What do we need to know, as fundraisers, about storytelling and how does it help our fundraising?
LJ: What you call a story, might not be a story. It might be more of a report – a list of facts. You say, this person got a job, and a home, and they did this … and call it a story. It’s not really a story if I don’t feel something about that person.
The missing piece is, what are the transformations? What did that person feel? Because that’s how I connect in for how I might feel if that were me.
AE: How can fundraisers get better at telling stories?
LJ: Pay attention to the little details. Rather than saying the river is polluted … talk about the feeling that you had as a child when you got to canoe, paddle down the river, and it was clean, and you could jump in and swim. And today, how it smells. And how you won’t let your children play in it.
AE: That is much more powerful than saying, the river is polluted. You’re right, those are facts. But it doesn’t evoke emotion.
LJ: Or paint a picture. You know what you’re doing is telling stories, here on camera, but you’re allowing us to tell a little bit about ourselves, or why, or how. Almost always when you’re telling a client story, some of that is missing. We’re pretending that by saying, what is it that this person did, is going to evoke this big feeling of … I better give them lots of money!
Examples of storytelling:
Jennifer got a scholarship of $5,000, doesn’t get me very excited.
But, if Jennifer had three jobs and the scholarship allowed her to drop one of those jobs so she could get her homework done, and tuck her child into bed … now you feel something about that scholarship. And it was only $5,000. Well maybe I could do $1,000 a year for five years, and I know Jennifer’s life is different.
AE: Great! Tell me another story!
LJ: There’s a CEO I worked with who said, on the syllabus of learning how to be a CEO, never did it say fundraising and storytelling. I wasn’t taught this, and we have to raise millions of dollars … so we talked about why she did her work.
Watch the full interview to hear the rest of Lori’s story…
Best Use of Stories for Nonprofits
AE: How can nonprofits best use stories?
LJ: Use them everywhere. If I go to your website, is there an actual story? Not just a list of the facts. Is there one on your website, on the homepage? On the donate page? Ask your program staff, who can’t you get off your mind?
AE: Right. And those are the important stories to tell to your board members at a board meeting.
LJ: I have another thought about that. Do we want our board members to tell stories or hear stories? I like to have each board member meet at least one person who is served by your organization. And then they come back to the next board meeting and talk about that person. How did that person feel and how did they feel about meeting that person?
Watch the full interview for more words of wisdom from Lori.
Sharing a story is one of the most powerful ways to connect people to your mission. Download Lori Jacobwith’s free guide, Boring 2 Brilliant — it includes storytelling criteria for brilliant stories, helpful checklists and easy-to-use templates.