Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops: 3 Vital Storytelling Tips

Marketers use stories to draw the attention of a wider audience and to generate interest in your organization. In fundraising, including major gift fundraising, stories motivate donors to provide financial support.

Here are three tips for using stories to boost your organization’s bottom line through major gifts:

1. Facts are important, but emotions motivate. Any marketer – or experienced fundraiser – will tell you that most people make decisions with our hearts and, after we’ve decided, we use our minds to think about the reasons for our choice. As you gather information about the good work your organization is doing, keep in mind those all-important personal angles and highlight them.

2. Our stories aren’t just for an audience of donors and prospects. You can also use them to motivate your board. In fact, when I facilitate board retreats I always strongly recommend that the retreat include a “mission moment” consisting of anything from a client presenting their personal story of how they’ve been helped by your organization to “Thank You” letters or even a video of those wetlands or testimonials. The success of any major gift program depends largely on developing a board of directors who are willing and able to both “give and get” those gifts, and nothing makes it easier for board members to overcome their discomfort with asking for money like a moving story.

3. Ask your prospects and donors to tell you their stories. From the start of the cultivation process, ask your donors about themselves. Why do they care about your organization? What specific area of your work excites them? Do they have a personal connection with you – a relative who benefited from your work, for example? Donors, and major gift donors in particular, will be happy to share these things with you. And while doing so they’ll remind themselves why they want to make that major gift!


Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE is the author of the recently published book, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops.

Special offer: The first 100 people to purchase Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops between 6 am – Midnight on Tuesday, March 18 will get free access to Amy’s webinar, The Art of the Ask (a $129 value).

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John Haydon