Personal Stories – Arts Orgs Need Not Apply? | npENGAGE

Personal Stories – Arts Orgs Need Not Apply?

By on Apr 21, 2014


This is a guest post from Anah McRae, Manager of Customer Support for Altru at Blackbaud.

According to the blog there are 5 key motivators for giving:

  • to support a particular organization,
  • because we are inspired by other’s stories,
  • to support a cause,
  • to feel good, and
  • to participate in an event.

If the first one is easy what can we do to get those that already support us to inspire others to do so?

Working with arts organizations there are often concern that your constituent stories aren’t as impactful. There is a perception that you have to have dirt and stitches to change the world for the better.  Of course we know this is not the case! We are changing the world and there are stories to be told.  Our job is to get those people, those lives, those schools and communities to want to tell our stories.  If a picture of an angry cat can get 4.5 million likes surely someone touting the effect of music and art on their lives can get just as many. And if 1/100th or 1/1000th of those people who like it go donate just imagine the impact. (Check out staggering updated statistics on social media).

How do we get personal stories out there?

Here are a few tips on encouraging those who support you to tell their story:

1. Recognize the impact.

If a mother or counselor calls you to express gratitude for that after school program, that summer art camp that kept her child off the streets or the guitar class in the gym on Saturdays, dig in. A few simple questions can help you craft a quick blurb for your site or an email that the mother can tweak and send:

  • How did the class help you?
  • How did it help your child?
  • Would you like to share this with others that may contribute to our program?

These contacts make us feel warm and fuzzy but if there is no follow up we have lost an opportunity.  I love this blog from last year that is a quick read on how to get someone to tell their personal story.  My favorite: Here’s my story about the program, what is yours? Another idea – create an exit survey at your museum that asks simple questions like “what’s your favorite exhibit” or “how many times have you visited the museum.”

2. Make it easy.

Educate those that want to help. It is one thing to agree that you want to help but yet another to have the time, the patience and the confidence to reach out.  Give your supporters resources like The Top 3 Things to Do After Making A Fundraising Page that gives step by step instruction on the best way to get your message out. Remember that blurb and email I mentioned in step 1? What is easier than copying something into a message and hitting send? People love to talk about themselves! Take notes, whip something thoughtful up and send it to them along with a link to a quick, easy fundraising page.

3. Make it fun!

Participatory fundraising often starts with events that allow people to get involved causally with a small time commitment.  Participants typically have a story and by raising money for the event they can dip their toe into the storytelling waters with one or two sentences about why they are participating. This blog talks about participatory fundraising ideas and the effect of healthy competition. Once you get the parent, the runner, or the dance-a-thoner engaged they will reach far and wide to raise as much as they can for the cause and while they are at it they’ll get experience acting as a fundraiser for you.

4. Reward them!

This article from PTO Today regarding the ABC’s of PTO recruitment (ok ok I’m a parent, forgive me) actually applies to ways that we can increase involvement universally and reward those that do help us. When you reward someone, thank them and show them the impact of their efforts they are more likely to return next year. Blackbaud’s Benchmarking study on Peer to Peer Fundraising Events notes that returning participants raise two or three times more than first time participants.

As we move farther into the age of overshare and crowdsourcing everything from our next pair of shoes to the best performing arts high school for our child personal stories will become more and more important to fundraising efforts. If 40 is the new 30, personal stories are the new mass mailing. When is the last time you told your story?


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