4 Ways to Use Stories in Your Appeals

 
4 Ways to Use Stories in Your Appeals

The last Nonprofit Tips and Tidbits discussed reasons why you should use stories in your appeals to better relate to your audience and help them better remember your message and mission. Today, we talk about 4 ways you can use stories to make your appeals more memorable.

  1. Use an example to humanize a need. This represents perhaps the most common and easiest way to insert a story. For example, to explain the need for meal service for seniors, you could just provide the statistics:

    Anytown County has a growing elderly population. With 20% of residents currently over the age of 65, census data projects we will reach 30% by 2025. That equates to 5,000 seniors in various stages of health and mobility.

    Compelling data, but YAWN. Boring!! Look what happens when we add some life to humanize that need:

    Anytown County has a growing elderly population. With 20% of residents currently over the age of 65, census data projects we will reach 30% by 2025. That equates to 5,000 seniors in various stages of health and mobility. Jane and Jim exemplify the average Anytown senior. With Jim’s declining health and Jane’s growing dementia, many weeks Jim doesn’t have the energy to shop for or cook a healthy meal, and Jane forgets to eat.

    We now have a story to go with those statistics. Jim and Jane could be your parents, grandparents, or you, making the need feel much more real and urgent. Would you not want to do whatever you could to help your parents or grandparents?
     

  2. Weave the story throughout the appeal to create suspense and resolution. After introducing Jim and Jane, you can talk about how the prospective donor can help them get the meals they need.

    You can help Jim and Jane eat hot, healthy meals every day. Your gift of $50 per month will provide 3 meals to seniors like Jim and Jane and help them live a happier, healthier life in the comfort of their own home.

    Now that we know Jim and Jane and many other seniors face this problem, we know that we – the donor – can make a very real difference by putting a check in the mail. For the donor, they feel good that they could help REAL people rather than the nebulous “seniors”!
     

  3. Use more “human” nouns (or personal names) rather than pronouns to make your appeal read more like a story than a business case. If you don’t have the space to add a full-fledged story to your appeal (often because a grant application limits your number of characters), you can still humanize the narrative and make it sound more like a story. Rather than using impersonal words like “seniors” or “individuals,” talk about “people.”Don’t talk about “youth” or even “children,” but “kids.” Go back and re-read the first section with some of these more personal words:

    Anytown County has a growing number of older adults. 20% of people who live in Anytown are currently 65 years old or older. Census data projects that by 2030, 30% of Anytown residents will have surpassed their 65th birthday. That equates to 5,000 people throughout Anytown in various stages of health and mobility.
     

  4. Use adjectives and adverbs to enliven your appeal. Similarly, using descriptive and emotional adjectives can make your appeal come more alive, adding emotion and feeling to it. The above example uses “have surpassed their 65th birthday” rather than “are 65 years old or older” to add some variety, emotion and humanism. Likewise, rather than talking about “senior meal delivery,” talk about “hot, healthy, tasty meals delivered to their doorstep by friendly volunteers every day.” When you use descriptive words like “hot,” “healthy,” and “tasty,” your reader or audience begins to form a mental image which they will more likely remember than just the sterile “senior meal delivery.”

Regardless of how you integrate stories into your appeals, do it. It will not only keep your appeals more memorable, emotional, and real, but will force you to focus on the people you serve rather than your organization, or, in the words of Simon Sinek, you will focus on the “why not the what,” central for successful fundraising.