20+ Places to Share Your Story at Nonprofit Events

We first introduced you to Lori L. Jacobwith, founder of Ignited Fundraising  back in March 2018, after we saw her speak at Cause Camp. A nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture change expert, Lori is again talking with us about the importance of storytelling – this time, in ways you might not have expected.

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When planning a fundraising event, keeping up with the massive to-do list can be a daunting task. The logistics often take most of your time and attention. Unfortunately, the hyper focus on logistics can cause you to miss critical opportunities to get your guests ready to give before, during and after your event.

Your supporters will give more often and at higher amounts when they’ve been able to learn a story about one person who will be impacted by their gift. And, it’s important to share (financially) what it actually takes to support that single person.

I’ve created a fun visual graphic to help your team identify multiple opportunities to share your people and money story.  

My advice: the more times you share a story, the better. You don’t need to have multiple stories. It’s equally as effective to share different parts of just one person’s story.

I believe the success of your event fundraising begins well before your guests arrive. But please don’t forget the opportunities you have throughout your event, and in the always-important follow-up and thanking.

It’s Never Too Early to Tell Your Story

As fundraisers, we plan for and hope people are ready to make a contribution at our events. It’s important, then, to remember it is OUR job to be certain event attendees are fully prepared to give. That means we’ve helped them understand who they are helping and how to easily make their contribution.

Whether your event is outdoors or indoors, a gala or a walk-a-thon, a wine tasting, golf outing or concert – putting a face on the impact of one gift will cause more people to give.

Whether you work to protect endangered species, reduce homelessness and hunger, create budding new artists, train service animals, advocate for clean air and water, or raise funds for cancer research, someone’s life IS different because of your work.

I’ve watched over and over again as event fundraising revenue increases because the team took the time to put a face (and a short story or quote) to the impact of giving.

Turn your confirmation email into a meaningful experience.  Include a photo & quote from a recipient whose life is different because of your work.  Watch the difference it makes to warm up your welcome email or the mailing sent after tickets are purchased.

Take a look at the image below for more ideas to get your guests ready to give:

Immerse Guests Every Step of the Way

Even if your print or online invitation is inspiring and has a face to remind attendees of their impact —   it’s been a while since they really looked at that invitation.

Taking every opportunity to immerse guests in your mission from the moment they arrive can be fun and incredibly effective. Whether it’s poster-size images of an adult or child your attendees will meet at the event, or a photo and thank you message from your testimonial speaker placed in the car by the valet (or in the gift bag) – fundraising revenues increase when you use multiple opportunities to share a short, powerful story of the impact of a contribution.

One of the most common reasons donors stop giving is they don’t know what their gift will be used for. If you are highlighting this for them prior to and immediately upon their arrival, attendees will understand that this event is about real people.

Live testimonials are the most powerful way to share an impact story at any fundraising event.  These speeches are short and last three to four minutes. One is plenty. Two is fine. Three is too many.

The very best time to hear a testimonial speech is just before the “ask.” If you’re holding an outdoor event it’s even more important to have shared this story before the event has begun.

A simple and powerful way to deepen engagement and increase contributions is by having your audience tell their own story. This can be a videographer capturing candid thoughts, notes written on a wall or large sign, or by inviting social media posts during your event.  These messages should allow your guests to reflect on why they are proud to support your organization.

Take a look at this graphic to identify new and fun ways to share faces and short stories during your next event:

Close the Loop of Your Fundraising Event

Your event isn’t over when the guests leave. It’s now time to rekindle the inspiration from the event. Don’t forget to include a photo or your quote in your thank you message or contribution receipt letter. This can be from your impact speaker, a long-time donor or volunteer. Make your message stand out.

Following your event is when you want your guests to remember how inspired they felt. Provide attendees with an opportunity to share with you how they felt during your event.

But don’t let your guests have all the fun! An inspiring event recap can be sent to your entire email list giving others a chance to support your important work.  The follow-up email is a great place to share a video clip from your impact speaker, or the video messages guests recorded at your event.

Event attendees and donors aren’t the only people with stories. Invite feedback from volunteers and staff.  Ask how they felt the event went; what their favorite part of the event was; and what they find inspiring about their work with you.

Storytelling is a powerful tool to put a face to your supporters’ impact. Remember: fundraising is about fulfilling the aspirations of your supporters.  When you share more stories you’ll raise more money.

Download the full-page PDF of the included images here.

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Lori's photo

Lori L. Jacobwith is a nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture change expert who has been named one of America’s Top 25 Fundraising Experts. She has delivered coaching and training sessions that have helped nonprofit organizations raise $300 million from individual donors. Her proven strategies & tools teach staff and board members to share their stories powerfully and effectively to cause donors to give more. Lori holds a BA in Political Science and Speech Communications from the University of Minnesota, has additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School and is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).