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Storytelling is the application of narrative processes in a technique of communication to strengthen the audience’s adhesion to the substance of a speech. It consists of trying to bring out within organisations (or the public) one or more stories with a strong power of seduction and conviction.

These stories, which can be reduced to anecdotes or extended to whole speeches, serve as tools to convey more complex messages. These messages are thus transmitted more efficiently, on the principle that to speak to the head, it is often necessary to touch the heart first. In other words, go through emotion to reach reason.

When entering the charity world, we do understand quite easily the power that impactful storytelling represents. We have facts to share, big numbers, and maybe unknown information that we wish to communicate with as many people as possible. But storytelling, especially in charity fundraising, is the opposite of aligning facts and big numbers.


Let’s take the example of Charity: water and their first TV ad.


Charity: Water is a not-for-profit organisation providing access to drinking water to people in developing countries. Their first advertising campaign to raise money was a failure.

The donations did not take off even if the video recorded +2 million views. This campaign aimed to convince donors by accumulating facts and information. Then, the creative team came up with a new campaign video:

It was a big success. The donations exploded and more particularly in the city of New York. Through this form of storytelling, the donors felt empathy. They were no longer addressing their logic, but their feelings.


The science behind storytelling

The science of storytelling shows us that when we read about or listen to an experience, multiple regions in the brain fire off to mentally reenact it. And this happens not just with isolated words and sentences, but full narratives.

In a story with rich details, sensory images, and metaphors, our brains start simulating it as reality. With this type of communication you tap into an individual's emotional intelligence. More importantly, we adopt the main character’s story as our own. Every description, sensation, and emotion gives us the opportunity to experience what they’re going through and even understand their thoughts and feelings.

So yes, storytelling has the power to change our brain chemistry and in turn, our actions. To reap the benefits of storytelling to help you collect donations, you need to know how to construct a story and effectively communicate it to your audience. Below we'll go through a step-by-step guide to apply this effective communication skill to your fundraising campaigns.

How to tell a good story ?


1. It all starts with a character

L’art du storytelling - L’art du storytelling  iRaiser

To tell your story, you must have a character to follow. This gives your audience someone to identify with and care about. This is who they hope for, fear for, and cheer for. So choose someone affected by your cause.

A character and story are more relatable when you include the little details; give the audience something concrete to remember. A child, a pet, a favorite hobby, or something else. Something special.


2. Add a conflict

L’art du storytelling - L’art du storytelling  iRaiser Now that you have a well-rounded character and know what they want, you have to show what is standing in their way. It doesn’t have to be “a villain”, it may be poverty, a natural disaster, poor nutrition, a social disapproval element… It just needs to be an opponent your donors can rally to defeat.


3. Take action!

L’art du storytelling - L’art du storytelling  iRaiser Now, with help from your organisation, your character must face the challenges in front of him/her. And now, you should empower your donors to become part of the story.  Show how your organisation helps the character reach a happy ending. This is the time to highlight how donors and your not-for-profit work together to support the character.


4. End with impact

L’art du storytelling - L’art du storytelling  iRaiser As the story comes to an end, show what you already have accomplished together. What progress has the character made toward their goal? How has the partnership changed lives for the better?

And if your story is meant to appeal for donations, the audience needs to know that the fight is not over yet. You can convey this by showing how your organisation is planning to help others and tackle new challenges. Invite your audience to become a part of the greater story by donating monthly or creating an online fundraising page on your behalf for instance.

This is where the story is “to be continued”…

How are you planning on applying the powerful art of storytelling to your fundraising strategy?


Video bonus

For the happy ending of this article we wanted to share a video from Simon Sinek: “How great leaders inspire action”. Trust us, it’s worth 18 minutes of your time!

Now that you master the art of storytelling, why not discover how to thank your valued donors and show your gratitude? Read our article: 13 creative ways to show donor appreciation.