We often hear about the importance of storytelling in fundraising. This is unsurprising, since stories, and storytelling, helps donors to visualise the importance of your work and the impact that they can have.
However, in creating your Case for Support, not only should it include great stories, it should tell its own story with a standard story arc. Whether your document is being used as a resource for your team or to be put directly in front of donors, your Case for Support should connect with the reader and lead them to a happy ending that is brought about as a result of their contribution.
So in crafting a great Case for Support story, here are a few pointers.
Use your Case for Support to set the scene
As with any story, you need to start by grabbing the reader’s attention and helping them to understand what the story is about. You can do this by demonstrating to the importance, and sometimes desperate nature, of the issues that your organization seeks to address. If your job is to cure cancer, help people to realise the breadth and depth of the problem, and how it affects people’s lives. If it is to tackle poverty, demonstrate the crippling impact that poverty has on individuals and indeed, whole communities.
Making other people’s lives better feels good. It’s one of our main motivations for giving to charity. In your Case for Support story, the people you help should feature strongly. By enabling your donor to care about your beneficiaries and to understand how they can help them to have a better life, you begin to build an affinity and emotional connection between the donor and your cause, so that they feel compelled to act and to experience the joy of giving. Stories, pictures, and quotes are excellent in doing this, since they can both illustrate the sometimes devastating nature of the problem, but also experience the joy of visualising how that problem can be overcome.
Be the solution
If you have effectively “set the scene”, your donors will be so moved that they will be anxious to hear how the problem will be solved. That’s where your organization, and your donor, comes in. By demonstrating that you have the means to fix the problem, you can show the donor that there is an answer. Be careful though not to take too deep a dive into how you do this. A description of your work is important as it helps the donor to understand what you will do to fix the problem (and therefore what your donor will be paying for), but this content should not disrupt your document and distract the donor from feeling true the impact of their support.
Make your donor the hero
While I say that your organization provides the solution, ultimately your donor has to be the hero in your story. In other words, without their contribution, nothing happens. You cannot do your work, your beneficiaries do not receive the services that they so urgently need, and as a result, they suffer. By helping the donor to understand how their support fixes the problem, they become the hero and are able to feel that they are the ones making the difference.
The happy ending
The more specific you can be in describing your need the more likely that the donor is going to understand, and indeed visualise, how their contribution will lead towards a happy ending. Drilling down to specific actions and costs is always more effective than a vague laundry list of desires and nice-to-haves. Donors want to feel that their contribution will be well-spent to achieve a realistic goal, one that has a direct impact on solving a specific need.
Finding and using stories in your Case for Support
So now that we’ve tackled the story arc in your Case for Support, what about the stories themselves? Having the right stories is crucial, as the wrong stories can diminish your message or distract the reader from what they really need to know. Here are some ways to choose the right stories to create a compelling document.
Determine your goals first
Start by understanding what message you need to get across, and then seek out the stories to illustrate this. So for example, if you want to demonstrate the debilitating impact of an illness, include stories from sufferers that highlight what it means to live with the condition. If you want to show that your solution really works, find success stories that effectively show this off.
If you are working with others to identify and collect stories, explain your goals to them, too, so they can understand what your needs are and can keep an eye out for suitable stories and storytellers in their everyday work.
Figure out what is going to resonate with your audience
Remember, what resonates with you might not resonate with your donors (you, after all, probably know the organization much more intimately and what grabs your attention now may have evolved). This is why donor research is so important. Talk to your donors and ask them whether there were any stories that they remember that really moved them? What was it about that story that affected them so much? See if you can hone in on the key factors in a good story from the donor’s perspective.
Use your stories to relate to your donors
By touching on things in your story that your donor may experience or fear for themselves, you can sometimes create more connection. For example, by saying “I didn’t think I would make it to my daughter’s wedding. Because of the treatment I received from Charity X, I was able to walk her down the aisle” your donor gets to experience both the fear and the joy experienced by the beneficiary, in a way that your donor is likely to appreciate.
Use your stories to give your Case for Support more impact
Instead of putting all your stories in one place in your document, weave them into your messaging, using them to illustrate the points that you have made through your text. This way you can strengthening the emotional link to the important elements of your Case for Support and your key messages, and help to emphasise the importance of what you do.