There’s a science to writing stories that raise funds. A copywriter has to build empathy, create urgency, incorporate their charity’s mission, adhere to their brand, and deliver the donor to a convincing call-to-action — typically in as few words as possible.
It’s a complex formula. And with such a long checklist to account for, it’s easy to fall into a trap: creating a template. But when every story follows the same template, they all start to sound the same.
Whether you help sick children, veterans, or another vulnerable population, every person’s story is unique. It’s the retelling that can get repetitive. If your donor newsletters are starting to blend together, it’s time to take a fresh look at your storytelling.
Try these tips.
- Don’t start at the beginning of your story. On the surface, a lot of medical stories seem similar: A person feels sick. They go to the doctor. They get a diagnosis. They pursue treatment. They get better. A hospital charity could tell this chronological story 1,000 times. Or, sometimes they can drop the donor into the action. What does it feel like to race to the hospital in the middle of the night, clutching your sick baby, praying you get there in time? What’s it like to wake up from surgery knowing your care team just saved your life? Transport your donor to the action.
- Vary the point of view. Tell a story from the perspective of a grateful family member. See if you can turn someone’s quotes into a thank-you note. Try writing from the perspective of a volunteer on the front lines of your mission. Think about how a shift in perspective can show, rather than just state, the value of your work.
- Look for the most evocative quotes. When you write, you keep your copy within the realm of literal truth. The people you help, though, speak from the heart. “You showed my family that miracles can happen,” a grateful beneficiary might say. Mine for quotes that get to the heart of your story and say the things only that person can.
- Capture a moment in time. At TrueSense, we work with an outstanding charity that gives families with sick kids a place to stay near the hospital. Lots of families tell us about the comfort and convenience this charity offers. One mom described the big pot of spaghetti she found there one night, and how the nourishment helped her find the strength to face another day. Allow magic moments to stand on their own and paint a bigger picture.
- Don’t resolve every story. You should definitely share your success stories with your donors. Donors need to know their giving makes a difference. But sometimes, you can show them a story that’s still in progress. Let them know, “William hopes that continued research will help find a cure for his cancer,” or “Abby has a long road ahead of her. Consider making a monthly gift to help now and in the days to come.” Affirm your donors’ support in a way that inspires them to help even more.
No two stories are the same, so stop serving up stories with the same structure and resolution!
The key is to really listen when someone shares their story with you. You can find the gem in every story. Show it to your donors to convey the value of their support.
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