We all know that fundraising is about securing a gift from a donor or prospect who wants and needs to support those you are healing, treating, feeding, advocating for or supporting. As fundraisers, we provide a service to those we solicit. We afford them the opportunity to support something they believe in and want to be part of. It’s not about us or about our mission—it’s about the donor.

So how do we start? Donor-centric communications begin and end with storytelling. Not stories of the multitudes of suffering children or endangered wildlife, but with one very real, and very compelling, story about one—one child, one patient, one species, one beneficiary, one survivor, one victim, one hero. But not a story about the institution or the organization.

And there’s evidence that this works. Lions are protected under the endangered species act. Yet it was the story of one lion, Cecil, a Southwest African lion killed for sport that sparked global outrage.

Sadly, hospitals are full of children facing serious illness and injury. For one S&W client, a children’s hospital told the story of a young girl who lost her battle with cancer yet prepared her friends for the inevitable before she died; this story proved to be the hospital’s most successful appeal of FY16.

Here’s one last endorsement: In a May 6 article by Philip Galanes in The New York Times, President Obama spoke about the power of storytelling:

But never underrate the power of stories. Lyndon Johnson got the Civil Rights Act done because of the stories he told and the ones [Martin Luther] King told. When L.B.J. says, “We shall overcome” in the chamber of the House of Representatives, he is telling the nation who we are. Culture is vital in shaping our politics. Part of what I’ve always been interested in as president, and what I will continue to be interested in as an ex-president, is telling better stories about how we can work together.

As the president prepares to leave office, he will undoubtedly remain a formidable presence in 21st century America. What is striking about this quote is Mr. Obama’s assertion of how something so simple, yet so effective, will continue to direct the way he communicates.

How do we engage a constituency? How do we affect outcomes? How do we reach others and make them the hero?

Very simply, we tell the story of one.

Special Content: The Roadmap to Recovery

As nonprofits everywhere face unprecedented challenges, S&W is stepping forward to help—working on rapid response strategies with our clients, curating resources for easy access, offering answers from our expert team, and bringing people together from across the nonprofit world to share ideas. The point, as we say, is Powering Missions That Matter—now at the moment they matter most.

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