Start with Your Story: Fundraising as Storytelling

One of the most common mistakes in fundraising is to think that it’s primarily about communicating how much money you need, or the vision of the larger organization. If you’re going to be successful as a fundraiser, you need to change your mentality and realize this key thing: effective fundraising is about telling your story.

Author Jimmy Neil Smith once wrote: “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” Stories are what connect us and move us. They have the power to motivate us and push us towards action.

So the question here is: What’s your story? Why, out of all the people on the planet, do you feel passionate about the certain vocation or work you’re in? Answer this, and everything else about fundraising becomes clearer—not only for your donors but also for you!

The noteworthy animation studio, Pixar, uses a prompt every time it dreams up a new story. It goes like this:

This neat little exercise not only works for those colorful animated films but also when sharing your story in fundraising! I’ll use myself as an example:

  1. Once upon a time, there was a guy named Bryan.
  2. Every day he went to college studying art, film, and design.
  3. One day he read a book that changed his life. It was a book called Real Life by James Choung. The book talked about how art, design, and beauty were having an increasingly important impact on culture and younger generations. This was because people were consuming and utilizing more visual forms of media such as Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix (to name a few).
  4. Because of that Bryan realized he wanted to help art college students use their visual talents for social impact and healthy cultural influence.
  5. Because of that Bryan decided to become a part of InterVarsity, a non-profit dedicated to creating world-changing students on college campuses around the country. He decided to join this organization on the campus of Art Center College of Design, an art college known for the creativity behind companies such as Apple, Disney, and Tesla.
  6. Until finally Bryan is now sitting across from a donor, asking him/her to consider financially partnering with Bryan in helping to change college students’ lives.

There it is! The Pixar prompt used to tell the story of a fundraiser. This is just one example; try it out for yourself! Use it when talking to your donors. Your story matters and people can’t wait to hear it. 🙂