Great stories are fundraising gold

Athletic wear company Nike is great at telling stories. One features an 80-year-old man who runs 17 miles a day. He says, “Friends ask me how I keep my teeth from chattering in the really cold weather. It’s simple: I leave ‘em in my locker!”

The point is so clear it doesn’t need to be said: If this old man can run 17 miles every day, why can’t you? And, Nike will provide the clothes and sneakers to do it.

We need to tell our stories, too. Just as creatively and just as succinctly.

I recently had the chance to tour a nonprofit cancer research center. I met a young researcher newly arrived from Finland. He spoke articulately in heavily accented English about how he has adapted some robotics technology to slice cells into ultra-thin portions so that more tests can be done and much more quickly than in the past. The doctor in charge of the lab said that last week, this young man ran more tests than had ever been run in the entire history of the lab up to that point.

This story is powerful to those who are touched by cancer. It says that progress is being made in a very measurable way. It shows what I call bite-sized progress – progress people can understand, appreciate and help to fund.

Giving $100 to cure cancer feels a lot like fighting the National Debt by saving $100 in Medicare costs. It feels like no progress at all. But giving $100 to help fund the laboratory where they have dramatically increased the speed of tests on cancer cells… that’s tangible evidence of progress!

Your nonprofit has great stories to tell, too. Get past the memos and sanitized grant requests, and talk to the young people in the lab, the volunteers reading to patients, the healthcare providers who celebrate their patients’ recoveries.

Take a video camera and record them in their workplace. Capture their energy. Explain, in layman’s terms, how they are making bite-sized progress. Then tell those stories in words, pictures and video, in the mail, on YouTube, Facebook and email. Explain how the donor’s $100 will fund measurable progress. Help the donors to feel that they’re making a difference. That’s all they want!

Do you have a good story? Tell us about it here!

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