I recently blogged about a storytelling tip for nonprofit leaders that I learned from Kindra Hall. The tip is especially powerful in nonprofit fundraising.

Kindra took the millenia old story structure - beginning, middle, end - and reframed it as normal, explosion, new normal. One of her lessons for us was that as storytellers, we need to spend more time on the "normal." Spending time on the normal helps our audience begin to care about our hero.

"We don't exploit those we serve"

This is especially true in fundraising. So often, we skip past the cloudy normal, share a bit of the explosion, and spend the bulk of our fundraising appeal on the sunny new normal. Often I hear nonprofit fundraisers and marketers justify this by saying, "We don't exploit those we serve."

I agree. We never want to exploit or manipulate. Ever. But what if telling their "before" story weren't exploiting? What if it were honoring the struggle?

I remember hearing of a rape crisis clinic that didn't want to tell the stories of the women they served. They wanted to protect those women. To not dig up the past. But when one staff member tentatively asked a client if she's be open to sharing her story, her response shocked them. "Absolutely! I'll definitely share my story. Maybe if someone else had shared their's when I was younger, this wouldn't have happened to me."

Allowing the client to share her story honored her struggle. And helped prospective donors care.

Give people something to care about

Year after year, Nonprofit Storytelling Conference speakers like Jeff Brooks exhort us to give donors a problem to solve. Jeff reminds us that if we show only the happy ending, donors won't be able to see themselves as being a part of the solution. It'll look like everything is under control without their help.

As you review the next twelve months of fundraising appeals, major gift asks, and event agendas, ask yourself, "Are we letting donors care? Are we giving them enough story for them to care about the person/pet/mission?" Are you spending time on the gray clouds of "normal"? Or are you jumping to the spectacular "explosion" or straight to the sunny "new normal"?

If you're not spending time on normal, get together with your team and start working on the "normal" part of the story. Better still, go talk to people you've served. Ask them what life was like. And then actually listen.

What you hear will likely transform your nonprofit's fundraising. In fact, listening could be the "explosion" in your nonprofit's fundraising move to the "new normal"!

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