Get Technology Out of the Way of Storytelling [Part 1]

Believe it or not, RaiseDonors isn’t just about technology.

Our focus is built right into our name: raising more donors for your organization.

We just happen to use technology to help you do that.

Ironically, our primary way of using technology is to get technology out of your way.

When you’re not struggling with hard-to-use interfaces, wasting time on manual tasks, or constantly disappointed by broken processes…

…you can *finally* do the things that really impact your fundraising results.

Like storytelling.

Lately on the RaiseDonors blog, we’ve been diving into our own stories.

Stories like  Muttville, Denison Ministries, and The Urban Alternative show how nonprofit organizations like yours have been using RaiseDonors to streamline their online fundraising and (you knew this was coming!)…. raise more donors.

Seriously Who wouldnt love a great story with a face like this

These stories are powerful ways for us to showcase the awesome work that RaiseDonors gets to be a part of.

I mean, I’m not the one telling you that it works – Erick Smith from Muttville and Jen Abohosh from Denison Ministries are saying so!

But here I need to make a confession.

The whole idea of telling RaiseDonors stories comes from you. Yes… you!

The Power of Storytelling

Great fundraising starts with great storytelling.

Stories that wake us up to realities we weren’t aware of—or sometimes—realities we have done our best to avoid.

Great stories stir our emotions. Sometimes because of the hurt and pain the story reveals…the unsolvable gridlock…or the glaring injustice.

But this is where good fundraising introduces a plot twist.

Nonprofits can be a conduit for good. To bring about change.  To make a difference.

But this is only possible with the support of donors.

Good fundraising tells a story. But it’s not a story about unchangeable history. It’s about a present reality that can be transformed.

And it’s a story that invites its readers to participate.

In other words, donors make transformation possible.

Donors are inspired to act now to make things better.

And why do they feel that way?

Because of the story.

That’s why it’s important your online giving technology doesn’t get in the way.

Your stories need to be told everywhere you communicate. From your website to your direct mail to your donation pages.

If you’re frustrated over how to insert images, how to get your brand colors right on the page, or even how to get your campaigns set up on the backend—then your storytelling gets stuffed in the back for last.

Instead of focusing on the high impact work of storytelling, you’re chained to a never-ending process of troubleshooting.


But technology isn’t the only thing getting in the way of your storytelling.

Here are some of the biggest challenges with telling stories that make a difference for online fundraising and how you can knock them all out of the park.

Problem #1: No Stories

The very first problem most nonprofits encounter with storytelling is that they have no stories to tell.

Or at least, they don’t think they do.

It’s not that the stories don’t exist–the problem is that they don’t know the stories that are actually happening.

Often this occurs because of a breakdown in communication between the marketing/fundraising side of the organization and the program side.

The good folks on the program side are where all the action is.

They’re the ones reuniting loved ones, finding forever homes for abused pets, or getting medicine to the sick.

Day in and day out, the program side of your organization is where the miracles happen. Lives are changed.

But if these impact stories stay in programming, they won’t get out to donors and prospective donors.

Story Capturing

To keep stories from dying on the vine, you must have a story capturing system in place.

In other words, what organizational system can you put in place to ensure your marketing and fundraising teams consistently harvest stories from the front lines and get them to your audiences?

For example, the Fundraising Coach, Marc Pitman, encourages fundraisers to call those on the programming side to build relationships and hear the latest stories.

For decades, we’ve known that face-to-face meetings were the best way to raise major gifts. But face-to-face visits aren’t possible in a pandemic. So what is a fundraiser to do? 

Call program people – now that we’re not traveling [due to COVID quarantine restrictions], we can use some of that extra time to build relationships with the program people who are making the impact stories. – Marc Pitman, The Fundraising Coach

Also, you could put systems in place that encourage “program people” to share testimonies of the good things happening on the ground.

Use technology to help capture your stories.

  • Can you create a shared folder in Google Drive or OneDrive where program people can place testimonies?
  • Does your organization use internal reporting systems like Sharepoint? How could you use the team reporting features of Sharepoint to make reporting stories a normal process for your nonprofit?
  • Can you schedule recurring video calls using Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet with program people where the only agenda is to encourage one another with stories?

These are just a few ways to instill the rhythm of story harvesting in your organization.

Problem #2: Emotionless Stories

Another big challenge that often plagues nonprofit stories is that they lack any kind of emotional pull.

Too often, the stories told in direct mail letters, website copy, or email newsletters read like reports–merely stating the facts.

But donors don’t give to facts. They give to people.

I like what veteran fundraiser Lori Jacobwith said in this Ignited Fundraising article:

Stories are a narrative account of real or imagined events, according to the National Storytelling Association.  However, it’s important to remember you are not a reporter who has to worry about sharing objective stories. You ARE a fundraising or communications professional charged with inspiring others to take action. – Lori Jacobwith, Ignited Fundraising

Stats, data, and historical context reveal the scope of the problem – but emotional storytelling is the only way to transport your reader from their living room couch to the place where the story is happening.

Emotion is what conveys the seriousness of the problem.

How do you write emotional stories?

To begin, simply talk about how the characters in your stories are feeling.

You don’t have to be a poet – no Shakespearean credentials required! Again, here’s Lori:

Talk about how that person felt before they came to you, what happened once your staff and volunteers provided support AND most importantly, how they feel today.

Of course, there is more to it if you want to dive deeply into the art of storytelling. But simply talking about the emotional state of your beneficiaries before, during. and after.

One final thing: for all of our friends in animal rescue – animals have feelings too!

In fact, some of the most emotional stories are those of a faithful animal and their human.

The power of emotional storytelling absolutely applies to stories involving animals, their rescuers, and their adopted families.

Technology Makes the Way for the Stories

There’s much more to say about the power of storytelling! In a later post, we’ll keep talking about some of the challenges of storytelling and how we can avoid them in our fundraising communications.

The point is that technology should not be getting in the way of your impact stories.

Truth is, technology should be a vehicle through which you tell your stories.

Technology makes the way for the stories.

If your technology is getting in the way of your stories, it may be time to get new technology.

If you feel your tech is getting in the way of telling your impact stories or other more important fundraising efforts, let us know.

We’d be happy to chat with you about how RaiseDonors could help you get your time, your control, and your life back.