I started my career in recruiting. I would gain the interest of good talent by sharing with them all of the reasons why they should be interested in an interview:  benefits, career opportunities and the potential to work with awesome people. I would make sure they were interested in the company before I would even let them start explaining how they were the right fit for the job. I wanted to make sure that even if we didn’t end up offering the candidate the job they would walk away telling their friends about this great company they interviewed with.

When I began working with nonprofits, I realized that there is a very common parallel between recruiting and fundraising: storytelling. In order to attract talent and support, a story that engages and inspires is required.

I was recently visiting a youth shelter and they were telling the story of a lady that has worked for their organization for 20+ years. She’s worked the early morning shift and has served breakfast to and seen many, many children off to school over those years. Matt, my coworker, asked  if her story had been shared with their donors and they said not yet. We all chimed in “Why not!?” This is an example of a story  that has the power to captivate and inspire people to be a part of your cause. Think about everything this woman has seen, every child she’s fed, and every morning she’s seen the mission of this organization in action—imagine the kind of support her stories could motivate.

So, what can you do to tell a story TODAY? 

1. Just ask!

Someone at your organization has a story to tell. Ask them why they work, volunteer, or give to your organization. Let them know you would like to tell their story to your donors! People love to share, especially if they know their contribution will make a difference to your organization.

2. Create a SIMPLE email showcasing their story!

Sending an email to your donors doesn’t always have to be this long, thought out process. Sometime it’s nice to JUST share a story with your donors about the impact their support is fueling at your organization. Sometimes your donor just wants to hear what’s happening and how their contributions are making a difference. Not ever email has to be about asking for money or telling them about what you need. Think of these stories as opportunities to keep your supporters connected to your cause so that they’ll be more likely to give again.

3. Have a good subject line.

Just like you, your donors are bombarded with emails every day. It’s important that you create a subject line that is going to make them want to open the email and read your story. Try A/B testing to see which types of subject lines best resonate with your supporter base. Remember that the subject line could be the difference between your story being read and ending up in the trash.

4. Target your audience!

It’s so important to be segmenting your audience. Pull a list of people that have given over the past few months and send them this simple email with a good story to tell. No ask, just a simple, clean looking email with a beautiful image and a beautiful story.  This is great for donor retention!

People just want to feel connected,  whether it be to their job or the organization they support. The more opportunities you provide for your constituents to feel connected to your mission,the more likely you are to turn them into ambassadors for your organization!


Michele is a customer success program manager at Blackbaud, helping customers utilize their Blackbaud online fundraising tools. She has been with Blackbaud almost 5 years and loves to get to know the customers she works with personally. She has a serious passion for online fundraising and you can find her reading blogs and picking the brains of the talented people surrounding her. When she is not reading every post on npEngage she is enjoying the food and sun in Charleston, SC where she currently resides.

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