Telling the Right Stories is Paramount
Read the original article here.
I love all of you in the nonprofit community. I really do. You're good people doing good work and I really enjoy sharing my experience with you.
In my years blogging and co-hosting webinars for nonprofitmarketingguide.com, marketing goddess Kivi Leroux Miller has let me speak my mind regarding BAD MARKETING and BAD STORYTELLING and BAD WRITING. We have shown you countless examples of BAD STUFF, then shared our tips, tricks and techniques for flipping it around turning your bad stuff into engaging content that will resonate with your donors and others.
In my years as a professional fundraising marketing consultant and as Editorial Director at PGM, I have spent a lot of time interviewing and writing stories about many, many fantastic donors. These are mainly everyday people who are doing something extraordinary. They're including their favorite nonprofit organizations in their estate plans. They're leaving (usually substantial) gifts via their wills, trusts, retirement plans, life insurance, etc. Good stuff. Great stories. These people really CARE.
Because of the nature of my work, I read tons of donor stories on websites, in newsletters and in fundraising appeals. Some are great, some are pretty good, and some are dreadful. Most are just plain BAD. Why are they BAD? Here are THREE WAYS your donor stories are BAD and what you can do about it….
- Your Donor Stories are BAD because they're TOO LONG. You say "our donors LOVE to read what we send them." That may be true. It probably isn't. If your donor stories are too long, no one will read them. I've read donor stories that go on and on and never even mention the OUTCOME/END RESULT of the donor's gift/action.
What you can do about it: Before you publish a donor story, test it on your friend with the shortest attention span. If you hand it to her and say, "Will you please read this?" and after taking a quick look, she makes a face, you need to cut your story in half. Also, please test your story to see if shows any outcome/end result.
- Your Donor Stories are BAD because they don't communicate WHY the donor actually CARES about your cause. That's right, your CAUSE. Typically, donor stories will have the donor saying how GREAT your organization is, but not WHY the donor cares about the cause that is the real reason they donate. You think the donor cares about your org, but they actually care about protecting the environment or feeding the hungry or housing the homeless or helping patients with cancer or educating the next generation or providing an experience.
What you can do about it: Simply include the "why" right up top. "Every time Matilda Warfield hears about a student who can't afford college, she remembers how she struggled to pay for college in the 1960's and cried when she was awarded a scholarship." This is WHY Matilda donates $50 a year to your annual fund. If a donor donates because "you called me" or "out of habit" or "it's my school, so I'm supposed to" they're not a good candidate for a donor story.
- Your Donor Stories are BAD because you're gushing about the donor. Your story is busy telling the reader about the donors service on your board, her PhD, her nine grandchildren and her military record before you tell your readers WHY your donor CARES.
What you can do about it: Stick to the "why your donors cares" and work tiny, pertinent details into the copy. "Every time Matilda Warfield hears about a student who can't afford college, this retired nurse and Army veteran remembers how she struggled to pay for college."
Number 3 is super important. I have a client who wanted to feature a lovely donor in an upcoming publication. Let's call her "Maryann." Maryann was a bit hesitant and said, "I'm not a showy person." So my client sent Maryann copies of previously publishes donor stories. Maryann called my client back and said, "Ok, that's fine, I'll do it. I see that the stories are about why we're trying to help — they're not promoting us."
Good donor stories are not "about" your donor. They're about WHY your donor cared enough to write a check/donate their car/put your charity in their will. I've interviewed countless donors and they're all pretty passionate about your cause. They have reasons. For instance, read this donor story about Pat and Don Cloud, a Colorado couple who care about Catholic education in their community. It doesn't gush about the Clouds (and they're wonderful, accomplished, philanthropic people). This donor story is about why they care and also communicates the OUTCOME of the Cloud's gifts, as illustrated in the Thank You note from the grateful student who received a scholarship.
There are many other ways your donor stories are bad. For instance, they have ridiculous "quotes" from donors like "How to best impact the programs and services are first and foremost." Huh? What? Did you write that for them? I've also seen donor stories that puts the development person FIRST. Seriously! "When I first met Maryann Graham, I was struck by how she held herself so regally." Yup, I HAVE SEEN THAT.
I hope you liked these tips! Find me on twitter @ClaireSez and tune in to Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio's special edition 250th show on July 24 — I'll be co-hosting.
Happy Donor Story Writing!
By Claire Meyerhoff,
pgmarketing.com, 13 July, 2015