Storytelling for Nonprofits – Why it works

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Storytelling

Why do people respond to a great story?  There are many reasons.  One reason is because deep down we all want to be a hero.

Your charity gives donors a chance to be a hero. You help satisfy the psychological basis of their life . . . the desire and need to be a hero in some way, shape or form.

This naturally strong connection to true heroes is also why great stories, movies, plays, and literature are so popular for many generations.  The classic story line of every epic story uses the “Hero’s Journey” format.

Homer’s story of Ulysses follows this plot. Many of Shakespeare’s plays are also based on the hero’s journey. Take a look at Aesop’s Fables and other fairy tales.  And don’t forget superhero cartoons including Superman, Captain Marvel, The Incredibles and many, many more.

Hollywood movie makers love this story line.  The diagram below illustrates how it was used in Star Wars IV (the first movie of the saga).

Example of the "Hero's Journey" story line from Star Wars IV (Copyright 2010 - PK Scribe, LLC)

I’m not saying your appeal letters and emails must follow the hero’s journey story line.  Most of the time it won’t fit and there are several other story lines to choose from.

I am saying that your charity gives donors a chance to be a hero.  To be the Luke Skywalker of your mission.  Because giving you donations allows them to accomplish what they never could on their own.

And you’re like their mentor in the epic Hero’s Journey (see the diagram).  This is because your expertise and skills are needed – along with the donor’s funding – to make the world a better and safer place for all.

This illustrates why your ability to tell a great story results in higher response to fundraising appeals regardless of what story line you follow.  The donor inserts themselves into the picture and sees how they can help . . . how they can make a difference . . . how they can be a hero for the person in need within your fundraising appeal story.

Give donors a chance to be a hero for your charity.  Tell compelling, inspirational stories.  Master the art of storytelling.