7 Rules for Sharing Inspiring Stories at Nonprofit Fundraising Events

Guest Blog Post from Lori L. Jacobwith, Founder, Ignited Fundraising

Storytelling and events go together like peanut butter & jelly. They are simply better together.

When you put a face on your impact you make it possible for event attendees to feel more connected to you and your work.

And then they give more.

No matter what kind of event you have, you ALWAYS want to find a way to incorporate examples of how someone’s life is different because YOU exist.

Your stories don’t have to be very long. In fact, I call them “mission moments.”

I define a mission moment as any short, inspirational, example of how your organization is making an impact.

A Mission moment can be:

  • A board member telling how they felt to participate at your recent fundraising event
  • A staff person talking about the vet who was turned away that day last week because your program is maxed out
  • A volunteer saying thank you for allowing them to “work” with your organization
  • A donor sharing how they feel when they give or WHY they give

Mission moments are that special few seconds during your event when people pause and notice, really notice, how important your work really is.
Here are my 7 rules for sharing inspiring stories you share at your fundraising event:

  1. The best stories are about real people who need your help.
    [To pass a law, clean a river, train a service dog, mentor a child, feed or house someone, you get it.]
  2. Make sure the person in your story has a first name, age and describe how they felt when they came to you.
  3. Minds wander, get real quickly. In about 4 – 10 seconds your listeners tune out if you haven’t grabbed them. Don’t tell me you are going to tell me a story about someone…just tell it. Starting with the person’s name. age and a few descriptive words. So, Keep your story short. 6 words to 2 minutes.
  4. Use emotionally connecting words to describe the person and the conflict they are dealing with. The conflict is the oxygen in your story. Be descriptive.
  5. Make sure your story to causes listeners or readers to feel something. Anger, sad, happy, proud – it doesn’t matter what the emotion is.
  6. Your story should have a moment when people see themselves or someone in their own lives. Could be their aging parents, the person who changed their oil on their car or their own child or?
  7. The best stories are told by the person themselves. Clients telling their own stories are the most moving way to share how your organization makes a difference.

My best coaching advice: Take time to work with your speakers, your video and your print materials to create inspiring mission moments so you exceed your goals.

Want Lori’s free e-book Checklists for Successful Storytelling? Click here

Guest Author:

Lori L. Jacobwith

Named one of America’s Top 25 Fundraising Experts, Lori L. Jacobwith is a nationally-recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture change expert with more than 30 years’ experience helping nonprofit organizations raise nearly $300 million dollars from individual donors. And counting.

In addition to Fire Starters her must-read weekly blog, Lori is also author of Nine Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign and co-author of The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits. She also created the Complete Storytelling System to help catapult nonprofits to unbelievable levels of fundraising effectiveness.

A longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Lori holds a BA from the University of Minnesota and additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School. In addition to her passion for fundraising, Lori has attended her native Minnesota State Fair—a favorite summer activity—for more than 50 consecutive years.

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