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How to Use Novel Writing Tips for Better Fundraising Storytelling

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 11/18/16 1:47 PM

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Once upon a time, a beautiful princess (or a handsome prince, take your pick) was planning on throwing a fantastic, successful, money-raising fundraiser. But she (or he) knew that the only way to do a really great job was to make sure the fundraiser told a story people wanted to hear and would respond to…

In my first few posts since starting here, I have already sensed a theme in my writing: the importance of storytelling in fundraising. You can see it listed in my infographic; and I talk about it in the political fundraising post. And since it keeps getting mentioned over and over, I figured I’d take advantage of the wealth of information November offers on the topic and create an entire post about fundraising ideas for storytelling.

But why November?  


If you aren’t that into creative writing, then you might not realize how important November is to us aspiring authors. But it is. November is National Novel Writing Month, and people all over the world celebrate with a group called NaNoWriMo by trying to write an at least 50,000 word novel, from scratch to finish, within these 30 days. In order to help all these tired, ink-stained, hand-cramped writers, NaNoWriMo (and many, many others) start offering tips on how to keep going, how to write a good tale, how to find inspiration, and more.

And while you might not be trying to write a novel, if you are planning a fundraiser, you do need to be creating a story. So how about we look at those tips NaNoWriMo offers and see just how they can help fundraisers better tell their story.

5 NaNoWriMo Tips on Good Storytelling (and How to Use Them in Your Fundraising)

I have scoured the NaNoWriMo blog (and not just to get tips on my own writing), and through them, I have found five tips on writing that also apply to storytelling for fundraisers. Use them, and enjoy!

Organization in Fundraising Storytelling

1. Be organized.

While there are many writers out there that like to write by the seat of their pants (a phenomenon NaNoWriMo itself has termed “pansters”), for the most part, if you want a book that doesn’t wander from the narrative, then it’s a good idea to be structured.

Get your questions together before you start trying to hand out answers.

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • How do you want to get there?
  • What is your mission and your vision?

A Marketing Prof article talked about figuring out your “whys” in order to help you raise more money.

  • Why do people give to you now?
  • Why should they continue to give to you?
  • Why do you exist?
  • Why do you believe in your mission?

When you have answers to these questions, then sit down and think of it like a puzzle. How do the pieces fit together to make a coherent, well-thought out story?

Conflict in Fundraising Storytelling

2. You need some type of conflict.

Imagine reading a book (or watching a movie if reading isn’t your favorite) and nothing bad happens. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl falls in love with boy. The end.

Does that sound as boring to you as it does to me?

A good story has to have some type of conflict in order to make it interesting (or compelling as the case may be.) The same goes double, maybe even quadruple, for your fundraiser’s storytelling.

Now imagine trying to get someone to give you money to support a cause when you cannot articulate the conflict. Why should I give money to save the whales when they are not in any danger?

If you want to tell a good story, you have to be able to explain the problem. (And then tell how you want to solve it and how your guests can help.)

Fundraising Storytelling

3. Let your own passion shine through.

If you don’t even like what you are writing, why should someone else? The next tip I got from NaNoWriMo is pretty simple: be passionate about what you write (and that translates to being passionate about your cause.)

People are pretty smart (even those you wouldn’t guess to be.) They can tell when you truly believe what you are saying. And if you don’t believe in it, why should they?

Mood in Fundraising Storytelling

4. Know how to set the mood.

Whether your story’s world is cold, and dark, and dreary - like Wadsworth’s - or happy and upbeat like [pick your favorite happy tale], you can bet that any good book has gone out of its way to set some type of mood. The mood is what makes you really feel the story - it’s the background info that puts the reader there. It can make you feel that fear the author intends or feel the love between the characters or feel the sadness or…

Notice how many times I used the word feel in the last paragraph. It wasn’t because I couldn’t think of any synonyms. I was making a point: the mood induces feelings, and feelings help the reader understand how they, well, feel.

Your fundraising story should also set a mood that induces a call to action.

  • Maybe you want them to be scared about the state of the world (so that they want to give money to fix it.)
  • Maybe you want them to sense how sad a specific situation is (so that they want to give money to make it better.)
  • Maybe you want them to get excited or happy because of all the change that you have already fostered (so that they want to give money to keep it up!)

What the mood is is up to you. But make sure you have one - and that you incorporate it throughout your story.   

Break Rules When Telling a Story

5. Don’t be afraid to break the rules.

Ignore everything I’ve told you. Well, don’t really. At least not normally, but maybe sometimes. Sometimes, by breaking the rules, you make yourself stand out from the sheep who follow without straying the leader. But if you go your own way, you might just get some positive results - so long as you do it correctly.  

Use the rules of storytelling when you are crafting your story for your donors, but don’t be afraid to stray if it feels right. Sometimes, in the moment, that story you so painstakingly crafted doesn’t feel as right as the one that comes from the heart. That’s okay.

End With Power

Here is my own writing tip based on my love of reading: make sure you end strongly. Nobody wants to read an entire book only to feel the author phoned it in on the last few chapters.

If you follow these tips on good storytelling, then the only where you have to go is up. And don’t you want your fundraising efforts to end with a powerful collection of funds and an even stronger donor base?

...And so the princess (or prince) followed all of these tips, and they found that their tale became a lot more compelling. People began to react to it. They donated money to the cause. And the fundraisers lived happily ever after. The End!


Topics: Fundraising, GiveSmart, Fundraising Storytelling, Tips and How To's

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