I’ve attended many a fundraising luncheon throughout the years. While I do enjoy meeting celebrities, eating amazing food, and seeing the inside of some of the most beautiful venues, what’s moved me the most are the stories of families or individuals who have been changed by charities — which are fueled by the support of donors.
More than once, a story of lives redeemed, patients healed, families fed, or veterans honored has moved me to grab my checkbook and write out the donation. These stories can be so powerful, they literally inspire people to donate.
Here are two examples of powerful stories shared during fundraising luncheons:
One of my dear friends, Tania Leskovar Owens, is the Executive Director for Foster Angels of Central Texas, which helps meet the many unfulfilled needs of children in foster care. The nonprofit has an annual fundraising luncheon every spring. At one of the luncheons, she had a couple speak about their experience with foster children and how the support of Foster Angels helped them.
The wife had prayed about how she wanted to help other children in need, and after much discussion and prayer, she and her husband decided to be foster parents. Within a week after they went through the process to become foster parents, they were given a 2-year-old child.
The child had been so severely abused, they feared he would be mentally disabled. They fostered the child for a year or so, during which time he progressed amazingly and was hitting all the marks on the traditional growth timeline. He was then adopted by a caring family, and his parents said he is one of the most caring and compassionate children — even with all he went through as a toddler.
While finding a loving family was what they prayed for, it was still difficult to part with the amazing child they fostered. They said, “We can’t do this again,” but just weeks later, a 3-month-old baby was available to foster. The baby was in a full body cast, because her parents — who had a history of substance abuse — had thrown the innocent child in a fit of rage.
They showed a picture of the tiny baby in a body cast, and I couldn’t stop the tears. The couple went on to describe that the baby had fully healed and was a healthy, happy little girl. They showed her in her recent Easter outfit, and reported she’d been placed with a wonderful and loving adopted family. It was at that point that I grabbed my checkbook and wrote out my donation. I could clearly see that this organization was making a difference, child by child.
The Salvation Army Austin Area Command also has an annual “Doing the Most Good Luncheon” every spring, where they honor guests and provide updates on current services and programs. At this year’s event, the pinnacle of the luncheon was when they premiered the film, It Takes an Army, that wove voices of local Salvation Army leadership along with stories of two local families whose lives were transformed by Salvation Army programs.
Featured in the film was the Hershkovitzs — six family members living out of their small car (after a series of unexpected occurrences). While trying to secure a job, send their children to school, and keep themselves fed, the family reached out to The Salvation Army for help. Once a room became available, they were able to get into emergency shelter.
Similarly, after leaving an abusive situation, the Castillo family lived with one friend after another until they ended up out on the streets. Then they called The Salvation Army and got a room in the Austin Shelter for Women and Children. Today, both families have their own apartments and have been self-sufficient for more than a year.
After the film ended, they brought the two families up on stage. The father of the Hershkovitzs held back tears as he thanked The Salvation Army for helping his family get back and stay on their feet. He stated that without The Salvation Army’s support, his family of six would still be living in their car. Again, I was so moved by their story, it was an easy choice to donate. I knew that The Salvation Army was playing an essential role in getting struggling families back on track.
Donors respond when they see and hear how people are positively changed by the programs and services of the organizations they support. When you have a captive audience at a luncheon, there’s never a better time to share those stories of transformation.
By telling these stories — and having the families directly affected share their account of being helped — you will not only demonstrate what your organization does to help those most in need, but you will also further drive donors to give.
Storytelling is one of the best ways to connect with donors and raise funds.
When done right, the stories you tell will be memorable, moving, and powerfully motivating to donors. To learn more about how to use storytelling for your fundraising, download our popular Powerful Storytelling guide.
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