A successful fundraiser starts with honest, often courageous storytelling—and compelling stories turn passive visitors into active donors and sharers. Does your story move people to make donations? Could it be sharper or more compelling?
The more powerful your story, and the more effectively you tell it, the more successful your fundraiser will be. Telling an effective story within the context of a fundraiser presents unique challenges. Here’s how to develop and express your story to make it shine.
Quick writing tips:
Break it up. Paragraphs and bullet points work wonders when trying to make something easier to read and understand.!!
Bold, underline, italicize when you’re trying to drive your most important points home.
Tell it from the heart. Be honest and direct with your supporters.
Get to the “why.” Let your friends and family know why this cause is so important to you.
Give a clear outline of how much money you need to raise and what the funds will be used for, including how it will help you.
Post pictures and videos. Images help your supporters feel connected to your fundraiser.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s dive into your comprehensive fundraiser story guide.
Learn from great storytellers
Before you tell your own story, it’s a good idea to explore successful campaigns for examples of courageous storytelling. As you experience these pages, ask yourself these questions:
How do these stories work to create understanding and empathy?
What can you learn from their approaches to storytelling?
For each story, are there any specific aspects that made you feel strongly?
What emotions do you want your own story to convey?
Start with a sentence that introduces yourself and the “main characters” of your story. Give readers (potential donors) the most relevant information first. How do you define yourself in relation to your story, or to the beneficiary? Whether it was your role as a parent, an entrepreneur, an environmentalist, or a cancer survivor, what was it that lead you to start this fundraiser? For now, keep this introductory information brief—you can always add more context if it becomes relevant later.
Example: My name is _____, and I’ve spent my life _____.
Define the essential pieces of your story
Start by identifying the elements you need to tell your fundraiser story fully. Note which details you have, and which you may need to find or develop. Make a list of photos and videos that exist, and ones you could create. What details will make your story come alive?
Your story needs to answer basic questions any reader would have: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Answer questions like:
What will the funds be used for?
How are you connected to the cause?
How will the donations raise aid you or others?
When it comes to fundraising, why is particularly important—why does the recipient need this donation?
Example: My life changed dramatically when _____.
Share your history
If you’ve tried other solutions before crowdfunding, it may be a good idea to share what you’ve done so far. Answer questions like:
How have you or your loved ones attempted to overcome the challenge presented to you?
What hurdles have you faced, and how have they changed you as a person?
Take this opportunity to describe the effect of your struggle on your family, your local community, or society as a whole. Feel to add more context now that readers have the basics.
Take Kamden’s story, for example. With his parents’ help, 8-year-old Paul started a campaign titled Get Kamden Rollin’ again so his friend Kamden could get a new wheelchair. In 10 months, Paul has posted 25 updates with photos, videos, important developments, and links. He’s shared good news and bad, but every update is filled with gratitude and optimism. His from-the-heart updates keep donors emotionally involved in their story and let them know where their money is going.
Example: When _____ happened, we made a choice to ______. And then ______.
Emphasize the turning point
What event led you to take action and start crowdfunding? Whether that moment took place in the boardroom, in a doctor’s office, or at the kitchen table, summarize it in a sentence or two.
Example: It was at that point, when_____, that we realized that we needed help from our community.
Show why we should care
This is the main question in the back of a potential donor’s mind, and the most important question your story should answer. In books and movies, the audience cares about characters who want something badly, and have (challenging yet surmountable) trouble getting it. People often feel a connection to imperfect characters who are doing their best under extreme circumstances.
We often turn to crowdfunding after a tragedy, either our own or someone else’s. In such situations, telling one’s story requires courage and honesty. One fundraising story told with incredible courage was Kathleen’s to help stop her husband Thiago’s deportation. Kathleen conveyed how vulnerable the situation made her family. It can be scary to broadcast your most sensitive moments to the world, but your honesty allows people to form a human connection with you, and with the beneficiaries of your fundraiser.
Build the story of your fundraiser
Beyond the overview, which parts of your story demand attention? What aspects will keep people reading—and motivate them to donate? Write your story with these elements highlighted, then add supporting details to connect the dots.
Once you’ve done this, step back and examine whether each part of your story works hard enough for your cause. How does each sentence, and each image, deepen interest in contributing? Does the flow of the narrative keep readers curious enough about what happens next that they’ll read your entire story, then want to lend support?
Sharpen your story
Take a few minutes to write down how you feel about your cause. What are the most accurate and heartfelt words you can use to describe the need for help? Then look at your fundraiser description—are those words clearly featured in your story? Look at your story from the perspective of potential donors.
Title your fundraiser
It’s hard to overstate how important the title of your fundraiser is. As with the title of a book or movie, it can draw people in or turn them away, before they know anything else. It’s the first thing people see on social media, the headline of your fundraising page.
Waiting to come up with a title for your fundraiser after you’ve written your story can help you capture your fundraiser in one standout line or phrase. Also, when you tell your story first, you’re more likely to see your fundraiser title as a story title.
Whether you’re drawn to a humorous approach—Help Junior Hammer Cancer!!!—or a more straightforward one—Pilar’s Breast Cancer Fund—the title should include the name of the beneficiary (the main character of your story) and highlight the major challenge that person is facing. For more help, read Tips for Creating Your Fundraiser Title.
Example: “Help _____ Knock Cancer Out!” or “Fund _____ ‘s Heart Surgery”
Get feedback and refine
Read your story aloud to see how it sounds—to yourself and to others you trust. Ask friends feedback questions like:
Does it sound like you’re telling the story to a friend?
Are there any moments where it feels awkward or there isn’t enough information
Which parts inspire readers to care enough to make a donation?
Would you personally be inspired to share this story?
One option to consider is telling your story in sections with subheadings—just as this post has been presented. This approach can make it easier for people to understand and absorb information.
When you’re happy with the results, look through your story a few more times, removing any errors. If you have someone in your life with strong editing or proofreading skills, ask him or her to review your story and make sure it’s as good as it can be.
Write frequent updates
If you view each donation as the beginning of someone caring, not the end, you can see the importance of posting updates. As you post updates, you bring donors into an unfolding story. And when potential donors see this, it inspires them to become part of the story as it unfolds.
We see a direct correlation between the frequency of updates and the volume of funds people raise. Update your donors often. In your updates, share good news as well as hardships, and do so as often as you might fill in a close friend. See this blog post for tips on how to write a fundraising update.
Add photos and videos
Not only do photos and videos make your story more personal, but they also help other people share and tell your story. Include photos and video in each update you post for donors.
Remember, honesty wins
Always be honest. Authenticity invites people to care enough to lend a hand. By telling your crowdfunding fundraiser story with clarity and heart, you inspire compassion. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable when you share details. Help people understand how much their donations help. Are you ready to tell your story?