Everyone knows that stories are powerful.
But how do you write a story that helps you not only meet but exceed your fundraising goals?
Think about a story that often comes to your mind. What about it makes it stick?
I’d bet money it has a combination of 5 specific tactics that make it more memorable.
We’ll get to those science-based tactics. But first, hold onto your hats… because you’re about to discover our #1 strategy for crafting a story that leaves such a lasting impression that your donors just won’t shut up about it.
The science behind sucking people into a story
You know that feeling of getting completely sucked into a story? Like when you get lost in a book or watch a movie. You completely disconnect from your surroundings and are transported into another world.
That’s called narrative transportation. It happens when your thoughts, emotions, and mental imagery are 100% focused on the story.
Narrative transportation for nonprofits
Here’s why narrative transportation is so important for your nonprofit storytelling: The more someone loses themself in a story, the more likely they are to adopt the ideas, beliefs, and attitudes in it.
In other words, they become more receptive to your message.
How does this happen? First off, being immersed in a good story activates your empathy and creates an emotional connection, which helps your brain encode it into your memory. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the memory.
Total immersion also cuts you off from the outside world. Your brain is busy processing the thoughts, emotions, and imagery in the story. That mental work is draining, and your brain can only handle so much at a time. So while you’re engaged in the narrative, your cognitive defenses are down, leaving you less likely to counterargue, question, judge, or object… and making you more receptive to the ideas in the story.
All this to say, the more immersive the story, the higher the conversion rates… which translates into more new donors, bigger gifts, and deeper engagement.
Ready to learn how to use narrative transportation in your stories?
Here are 5 simple tactics that will pull your audience into deeply immersive narratives.
#1. One character ☝️
Your story should be about one person, not a group of people.
In the nonprofit world, it can be easy to talk about the needs of entire populations and how certain problems impact whole groups.
But humans don’t connect emotionally with groups. We connect with individuals.
Tell the story of one person and give them a name. Share details that advance the story. That may include their age, family status, or background. Also be sure to understand their needs, hopes, and fears.
#2. A conflict 😤
Identify your character’s struggle. This should be a problem your organization seeks to solve, and it needs to be big, bad, and urgent. Turn that problem into a supervillain so donors see why they need to get involved and do something about it.
For example, without access to clean water, a child can’t attend school regularly because they either spend hours of their day traveling long distances to collect safe water or are sick from drinking contaminated water.
#3. Emotions ❤️
Identify the emotions your character feels throughout their journey so you help your audience feel them too. How does the character feel before they engage with your nonprofit, and what’s the emotional transformation they experience afterwards?
Also pay attention to what you feel as you engage with a story. Did something about it make you tear up? Dig in to what you feel… tap the root of that emotion and share it with your audience.
#4. Sensory details 🔍
Details bring stories to life. Using descriptive, sensory details helps your audience engage, imagine, and remember the story.
Home in on sight, sound, touch… and especially smell and taste, which are particularly effective at immersing someone into a narrative.
Also be specific. Give exact numbers, name precise locations. Describe details such as the time of year, clothing, interesting artifacts, and so on. The more specific your details, the more believable your story.
#5. A single call to action 💪
The first 4 tactics prime your audience to make an impact and take action.
Now it’s more important than ever to make sure you offer only one, clear call to action.
If you present two or more calls to action, you force your audience into decision-making mode, which pulls them out of the narrative and into the logical part of their brains. This will lead people to take the easiest course of action… which is to simply exit and choose none of the calls to action you’ve offered.
With one simple and clear call to action, you increase the chances that they’ll stick around and say yes.
These 5 tactics may seem simple enough.
You might even feel inspired to try sprinkling them into your next story.
But take a strategic approach and make sure you begin your story-crafting process with these 5 building blocks, and you’re bound to bring in new donors, see larger gifts, and increase engagement.