A few weeks ago, I reported on a a href=”https://fundraisingcoach.com/2006/06/27/whos-telling-your-storywhos-telling-your-story/ “>talk by Andy Goodman on the importance of story.

A few days ago, one of you posted this comment to that post:

I recently found your site. Thank you for sharing these tips! I have volunteered to write the newsletter and other literature for a small nonprofit humane association. After spending many years working in the legal field, most of my attempts at writing look like legal pleadings; a far cry from fundraising. But after reading your post about story telling, I put together a flyer telling the story of one of our dogs. And today we received a $200 donation as a result of the flyer. Thank you!

Stories can be very powerful!

During his talk, Andy Goodman stressed the importance of telling a story correctly.

Most of us in the nonprofit world tell boring stories with really long words and phrases like “disadvantaged youth.” Why is that? We have some of the most exciting stories to tell! When we tell them in the laborious way we usually do, we’re stealing the opportunity for people to “get” what we’re doing. Let’s not rob the world of these great stories anymore!

Good stories have a hero. According to Andy, this hero needs to be a person, not an organization. That hero needs to have a goal, some desirable end result. And the story is getting the hero through the barriers to finally achieving that goal. More compelling stories have more barriers.

Early in his career in writing for TV, a mentor told Andy the way to tell a story was:

  • Act I: Get your hero up a tree
  • Act II: Throw rocks at him
  • Act III: Get him down

The more rocks you throw, the more invested the audience will become with the story.

This reminds me of the first time I watched The Princess Bride. I was so relieved when they were making it out of the Fire Swamp. They’d already overcome years of separation, the Cliffs of Insanity, a sword fight, a wrestling match, a game of wits, the fire spurts, the lightning sand, and the Rodents Of Unusual Size. But they emerged from the Fire Swamp only to be captured by Prince Humperdinck! Act II seemed to go on forever! They just kept throwing rocks at this poor couple.

That’s part of what makes it a great movie. (The book is even better!)

The next time you watch a TV show, see if it fits the Act I-Act II-Act III formula. (Andy says “24” is this on speed!)

And between now and the next issue of EFE, why not craft at least one compelling story about your organization and the people it serves. Try making it one of the a href=”https://fundraisingcoach.com/2006/06/27/whos-telling-your-storywhos-telling-your-story/ “>core stories mentioned last time.

For even more information on how to tell your nonprofit’s story more effectively, check out my seminar Who’s Telling Your Story?.

Go ahead, throw some stones!

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