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Storytelling Techniques That Drive Donor Engagement in Year-End Fundraising

Storytelling Techniques That Drive Donor Engagement in Year-End Fundraising

Chapter Leadership Brief 12.1.23

By Mary Whitrow, Content Marketing Manager, iWave

As the year comes to a close and year-end giving campaigns are in full swing, nonprofits are particularly focused on engaging with their donors and ensuring support for their mission and cause. We have all heard about (and experienced) the effectiveness of storytelling and know that it is a powerful tool that can captivate and engage donors. But what makes a story compelling? Here are seven storytelling techniques that can drive donor engagement in year-end fundraising and create a connection that inspires action and in turn, brings about meaningful impact.

1. Know your audience:
Understanding your audience is crucial in crafting a compelling story. By utilizing fundraising intelligence, you can gather valuable external information about your donors, including wealth, biographic, and philanthropic data, as well as their connections and affinity to your cause. This knowledge allows you to tailor your storytelling approach to resonate deeply with your audience's values and priorities.

2. Define your story's goal:
Before crafting your story, identify the specific goal you want to achieve through your fundraising efforts. Whether it's raising funds for a specific program or increasing donor retention, align your story with this objective. This clarity will help you structure your narrative and execute your storytelling efforts successfully.

3. Choose the right timing and communication channel:
Timing and delivery are essential elements of successful storytelling. Consider the most appropriate time to engage your audience based on your goals (before, during, or after a campaign). Choose the communication channels that your audience is most active on, whether it's social media, email newsletters, or personalized direct mail. Don’t be afraid to take a multichannel approach if appropriate; this can help to keep your storytelling fresh and give you a higher chance of finding and connecting with your audience.

4. Use a hook to get your audience's attention:
In a saturated media landscape, capturing your audience's attention quickly is vital. Craft a captivating hook that arouses curiosity or evokes an emotional response. This could be a powerful statistic, an intriguing question, or a compelling visual. Grabbing their attention will ensure they continue reading or listening to your story.

5. Create tension and build to the climax of the story:
A story without conflict lacks depth and fails to evoke emotions. Introduce challenges or obstacles your beneficiaries or organization faces, demonstrating the need for donor support. By building tension, you will engage donors emotionally and create a sense of urgency for their involvement.

6. Be descriptive:
Make your story come alive by using vivid descriptions and immersive storytelling techniques. Paint a picture with words, create characters that your audience can identify with, and be specific when demonstrating the positive impact of your organization's work. Make your story personal for your donor by sharing real-life experiences that might bring out empathy in them.

Hot tip: Generative AI (like NonprofitOS) can help with creating content for campaigns, such as stories, testimonials, specialized appeal letters, and more.

7. End with a positive takeaway:
Leave your audience with a positive takeaway or a clear call to action. After taking your donors on an emotional journey, inspire them to make a difference by supporting your cause. Provide specific ways they can contribute, such as donating, volunteering, or spreading the word. By ending on an uplifting note, you encourage your audience to take action and become part of the solution.

In the world of fundraising, the power of storytelling techniques cannot be underestimated. By knowing your audience, setting clear goals, and choosing the right channels, you can set yourself up to have your story heard. By crafting compelling hooks, building tension, using descriptive language, and ending with positive takeaways, you can create a connection with donors that inspires generosity and drives meaningful impact for your cause.

Want to learn more about how NonprofitOS can help you write content 16X faster? Book a call today.


Mary is a Content Marketing Manager at iWave. She has a business degree and brings a multitude of experience in marketing, education, writing, and editing to her role. Mary is committed to producing content that serves and uplifts nonprofit organizations, and she has a genuine passion for making a positive impact in the nonprofit industry. 


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