Are we inviting the donor into the story through immersive experiences?
As nonprofit fundraising professionals, we understand the power of sharing stories with our donors and probable donors. Stories conveying the urgent and compelling needs of those we seek to serve through our missions. As well as stories of lives transformed because generous supporters chose to invest in our work. Storytelling is a beautiful and necessary way to convey how donor support makes a difference in real and tangible ways. As Jerry Panas always said, “People give to change lives and save lives.”
But there can be a dark side to storytelling if we aren’t careful. Storytelling in-and-of-itself can be a monologue – one-way communication. As staff, we can easily regale our supporters with tales of need and inspiring success stories. But where is the donor in the story? That’s where storyliving comes into play. Storyliving invites the donor into the story through immersive experiences. As Blue Frog Fundraising, U.K. founder, Mark Phillips said, “They aren’t your donors. You are their charity.” By designing the donor journey through their perspective, in alignment with their passion, preferences and philanthropic point of view— our organization becomes part of their life story…. their cause.
A donor storyliving immersion may be a trip to Belize to help build a house over Spring Break. Maybe storyliving is serving Thanksgiving dinner to people experiencing homelessness in your community or volunteering for a day at a camp for children dealing with grief from the loss of a loved one. Creating heart-stirring, immersive experiences aligned with donor interests and passions can result in truly transformational gifts and a lifetime of loyal support.
Of course, when crafting these immersion experiences, we must be intentional about ensuring the people we serve don’t feel like they’re ‘on display.’ Storyliving is more than a walk-through or show-and-tell. Storyliving is about authentic connection and touching hearts. And don’t we all want and need to feel something real? If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we truly need each other.
–Tammy L. Zonker (she/her/hers/nana)
Fundraising Strategist, AFP Master Trainer & Keynote Speaker
Assistant Dean Institute for Charitable Giving