Why Is Storytelling Important for Fundraising?

Any storyteller worth their salt is going to grab your attention. And if they’re good, they’ll take you on an emotional journey to show you a new point of view – and persuade you to take action.

You see, as social creatures, human beings are designed to learn through story. That’s because stories contain a magic ingredient.

The Magic of a Good Story

There are always at least two active participants in any good story. First, there’s the storyteller. As the storyteller, you share your message by using words to conjure up ideas full of images, actions, sounds and sensations.

Then there’s the second participant – the audience. But far from being passive, they must be fully engaged for the story to weave its magic. For it’s in their imagination that the world of the story is created. Like the building of a dream, the sights, sounds and sensations suggested by the storyteller are produced by their brains as they listen, watch or read.

And, because it’s in their imagination, it means they experience real emotions.

And a genuine emotional response is the magic ingredient that brings the story to life!

Why Emotion Drives a Story

Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, discovered that oxytocin, the same chemical that generates empathy and enables us to share in other people’s emotions, can be induced through character-driven stories.

Zak’s department conducted a series of experiments and found that “the amount of oxytocin released by the brain predicted how much people were willing to help others; for example, donating money to a charity associated with the narrative.”

So as you can see, when it comes to fundraising, story plays a critical role in motivating behaviour. 

Stories Are Memorable

If you want to reach someone with an important message, like why your ministry exists and the kingdom impact your ministry has, then you need to capture their heart.

Research shows that one of the best ways to share kingdom impact is by telling a story. And by using a story to reach your audience, you’re not only connecting with their heart and mind, you’re also more likely to leave a lasting impression. According to Celinne Da Costa, writer for Forbes Women, “Storytelling can also be up to 22 times more memorable than facts.”

Now that’s something to remember!

Stories Are Open Doorways

Stories connect your donors to the impact of your ministry.

You wouldn’t build a house without a door – and powerful, emotive stories are the entryway for people to discover the good work your ministry is doing.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organisation that provides legal representation to prisoners wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, says, “You need data, facts, and analysis to challenge people, but you also need narrative to get people comfortable enough to care about the community that you are advocating for. Your audience needs to be willing to go with you on a journey.”

So why is storytelling important for fundraising?

Wrapping your message in a great story invites people in. It provides them an opportunity to step through an open door and become an active participant in your ministry. And by sharing stories that show the real-world impact of their giving, you can deepen your donors’ engagement and motivate them towards even greater kingdom impact.

Of course, there is a balance between the art and the science of storytelling. It’s important to ensure each story is believable and emotionally engaging, as well as truthful and accurate. But it’s crucial to prioritise capturing the heart because your donors need the emotional connection of stories to truly connect with the mission – and the powerful difference that their involvement can make.

And here’s the best part…

As you tell powerful, engaging stories, you’ll reach more people with your message – and you’ll also build a trusting community of loyal, deeply invested donors who believe in the mission and journey with you.

As writer Jill Suttie says, stories “not only have the power to absorb our attention, they can make us more empathic, help us navigate our complex social world, and even draw us together as a community.”

Discover how you can tell the story of your ministry to invite in more donors and build a community that will see even greater kingdom impact. Call/email/etc.

SUMMARY:

• Stories go straight to the heart

• Stories produce empathy and encourage identification with the subject

• Stories help people understand issues from another person’s point of view

• Stories make facts and data relatable, and improve memory retention

• Stories emotionally engage your audience, and emotion drives behaviour more than logic

• Stories turn abstract concepts into tangible, emotional, and memorable ideas

RESOURCES:

Celinne Da Costa, Forbes Woman, 3 Reasons Why Brand Storytelling Is The Future Of Marketing

https://www.forbes.com/sites/celinnedacosta/2019/01/31/3-reasons-why-brand-storytelling-is-the-future-of-marketing/#27d8706855ff

Paul J. Zak, Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling

Jill Suttie, The Storytelling Animal: A new book explores how stories make us human https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_storytelling_animal

Carmine Gallo, Talk Like Ted: the 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, St Martin’s Press, New York.


+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Creating a Healthy (and Fun) Culture, Part One

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.