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Ten Ways to Supercharge Your Storytelling

May 15, 2018

Shanon DoolittleAuthor Libba Bray once wrote, “There is no greater power on this earth than story.” Stories are a “shared experience” that connects us all. When used strategically, storytelling can be an effective way to raise money and motivate donors to give. Let the storytelling begin!

AFP recently had a chance to chat with Shanon Doolittle, fundraising and storytelling coach at Voice for Good, about the undeniable power of storytelling, along with formulas and techniques that make a story memorable. (Shannon also covered these subjects in much more detail during her recent webinar, 10 Ways to Supercharge Your Storytelling. If you missed the live webinar event on May 16, you can still sign up and listen to the archived event.)

Q.   What is the key takeaway from this webinar?

A.  You need to have a story structure. Any standard structure can be beneficial, but know how to use it in a fundraising context.

Q.  Why is storytelling the ultimate tool to engage and connect with donors?

A.  Telling stories is how we find community and connect. Stories are how we connect with other human beings and build a loyal donor community. We as humans are hard-wired for stories to community.

Q.  What are the top 3 practical and actionable ways to improve your storytelling skills and fundraising results?

1. Hook them by writing a great opening line, or first sentence.

2. Stick to one character—don’t distract donors and others with another character.

3. Consider the channel you’re using to communicate.

More Ways to Supercharge Your Storytelling 

  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Ask donors to share a story.
  • Use an image or photo.
  • Create a story tour.
  • Spare the (boring) details.
  • Introduce an unexpected character.
  • Give your story a purpose. 

Q.  What are the key elements every good story needs if you want donors to give?

A.  The must-have story elements are the 4 C’s: character, conflict, climax and conclusion. You need a likeable or relatable character who needs help. Next, you need a big conflict, followed by that climax moment when the story comes to a head, and conclusion.

Q.  You have served as creative lead on hundreds of events, campaigns, and donor stewardship programs, and helped raise tens of millions of dollars for nonprofits of all sizes. What has been your greatest lesson learned?

A.  When you think you have it, you’re still missing something. Tell a story, spend time on creating, sharing, practicing and getting feedback. Ask more questions. Most importantly, take time to write the story well.

Q.  What’s the biggest challenge in writing a compelling story?

A.  Finding the story. You don’t want to present the conflict in a way where the audience might be overwhelmed. 

Q.  How do you make a story stick?

A.  By having it be an emotional journey. Sticky creates emotion! You can’t inspire or motivate someone to do something if they don’t feel anything. Sharing a story where I can feel sad—usually means I will be inspired to do something. If the emotion isn’t there, the money won’t come. Learn to craft stories that pack-a-powerful-punch and are emotional – raising!

Every great moment has started with a passionate or compelling story! Storytelling, especially when it’s sticky, is important because of the following reasons:

  • We connect through stories.
  • Our bodies experience stories.
  • Stories create emotions.
  • We are emotional decision makers.
  • Stories move us to act.

Go out on an adventure! Step away from your desk, and go in the field. Get closer to the front lines, and speak to front-line co-workers. Watch a movie. Listen and tell your story. Use writing prompts. These are ways to initiate that next big, compelling, and sticky story that prompts donors to give.

Q. How important is it to make a good story great?

A.  Good stories can motivate people to act, but great stories can make them act.

Q.  What are the best storytelling formulas and techniques that make a story memorable?

A.  Understand the hero’s journey (with the hero representing triumph/thanks), and the three-act story structure (beginning, middle, end). Additionally, understanding what’s important such as written and oral techniques.

Q.  If not a fundraising and storytelling coach, I’d be …?

A.  History Teacher.

The archived version of Shanon’s webinar, 10 Ways to Supercharge Your Storytelling is available for permanent download, or up to six months for streaming from time of purchase.

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