5 Storytelling Tips For Better Online Fundraising


This is the limbic brain. It’s about 200 millions years old and is responsible for emotions. It’s the elephant mentioned in Switch.

The limbic brain the source of value judgments and feelings (mostly unconscious) that influence our behavior. In fact, almost all consumer behavior is driven by the limbic brain, as are most viral social media campaigns.

Storytelling, which is as old as us humans, has proven to be instrumental in creating great movies, cultural revolutions, and fundraisers. That’s because storytelling speaks the primal language of the limbic brain (eMOTION).

5 storytelling tips for better online fundraising

Here are five ways you can use storytelling to improve your fundraising campaign:

  1. Talk about one person. The limbic brain responds to stories about 1 person, and not so much to statistics and impossible numbers. This means telling a story about 1 hungry child, instead of 100,000 kids.
  2. Talk about a real person. Talk about the person who benefited from your org’s good work! What’s their name? How old are they? What are they like as a person? What are their hopes and struggles? If you’re a dog rescue, talk about the people who adopt. Tell their stories.
  3. Include a beginning, middle and end. “Once upon a time” and “happily ever after” are the bookends to every great story. Make sure your story follow an arc, like in the diagram below.classic-story-arc
  4. Talk about the money. The straight up truth about fundraising is that you have to explain why you’re asking for money. People will trust you more if you’ve answered questions they may not feel comfortable asking:
    • Why do you need money? If you’re asking people for money, they have a right to ask this question. And the best way to answer it this to explain the fundraising gap, the difference between what you have and what you need.
    • How much do you need to raise? Break out the project into categories that the donations will fund. Just make sure the categories make sense to your donor. For example, animal shelters might list health screenings, food, bathing and cleaning, etc.
    • When do you need to raise it by and why? Do you have a matching donor challenge? Is there a negative consequence of NOT hitting your goal?
  5. Invite them to be part of the story. When you tell a powerful story, people will be moved. They’ll want to do something. Part of your job, as a responsible storyteller, is to facilitate action. Always end every story with an invitation to become part of the story. The simpler, the better:

ask people to become part of the story