Image by Jeffery Erhunse for Unsplash
Image by Jeffery Erhunse for Unsplash

How to tell it’s a good story

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By Maria Chilcott. Read time 3 mins

Stories are essential to your cause, forging deeper connections, conveying authenticity and building trust. But how do you know which stories to tell?

Here are the key elements to look for, to help you recognise the stories that convey the heart and soul of your work, the ones that your supporters will love and share.

1. It’s contagious

Put simply, a good story is one that you want to repeat. If you hear or read a story and then find yourself continually thinking about it or telling it to others, you’ve probably struck gold.

2. It’s personal

The facts about a social need can be complex and overwhelming. But a good personal story centres donors’ attention on a character whose situation or experience they can relate to. Ideally, it should be an actual person (or animal if they are your cause) and keep it to just one. This encourages action because one person can be helped, whereas large-scale issues seem impossible to eradicate.

But a story’s ‘hero’ needn’t always be a beneficiary. They might be a passionate volunteer, someone who’s gone that extra mile (often literally) to raise money for your organisation. Or you might have a donor who is keen to inspire others to be generous.

3. It’s detailed

Try to communicate the specific, unique and rich little details that will ring true and bring your subject’s experiences to life. They’re evocative and set a scene that makes a story easy to grasp. Include sensory information like colours, sights, sounds, smells, or emotions like joy, terror, hope.

4. It makes people care

Making an emotional connection with donors is another must. A way to gauge this is by considering how much the story moved you. If it made you smile, cry, gasp, laugh, or shake your head, chances are it will also evoke a response in others.

5. It shows a transformation

Donors want to achieve change, and they want to know that their help will do some good. Your story should reveal how you’re going to improve someone’s life by showing a problem identified and addressed with your donors’ help. Include obstacles the subject has overcome and be positive.

6. It uses great visuals

Choose one key image and remember that faces engage people best. Photos where you clearly see the eyes help to create an instant connection.

A good starting point is to speak with those who are most passionate about your cause, including volunteers. With practice, you’ll soon be telling compelling stories that engage, motivate, and inspire your donors, both old and new.

If you need any help with identifying your story and how to tell it, give us a call.

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