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Story-Based Stewardship: Why It Works

November 25th, 2013 Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about storytelling lately. Partially because of my upcoming storytelling workshop in Vancouver and also because of The Storytelling Challenge survey that’s happening. But I thought that I would take a slightly different angle this week and consider the relationship building capacity of storytelling.

Storytelling is an important tool that non-profits are using in fundraising and communications. But perhaps its most important role is being able to forge relationships with constituents in a scalable way. Especially when it comes to annual giving stewardship.

The Challenges of Annual Giving Stewardship

Being familiar with the complexities of annual giving portfolios, I know that many annual giving fundraisers struggle with how to provide donors with meaningful stewardship without having to put in 14 hour days. Moreover, the real secret of course to retaining donors and increasing fundraising revenue is to provide donors with stewardship.

Phone calls take time and so do handwritten notes. Planning appreciation events can be costly and you might not have a good turn out. Conducting donor visits would also be out of the question for most annual giving folks.

So what solution is left?

What I would like to advocate for is a major donor-esque approach to annual giving stewardship – accountability report.

Impact + Accountability = Great Stewardship

The accountability report is possibly the most under-utilized tool in annual giving.

Most commonly used by major gift folks, accountability reports are a tool used to tell donors exactly how their gift ways used. Specifically, they report on the gifts impact on the program or service that received it. And as you could probably imagine, this closes the loop on the elusive donor retention issue.

Donors consistently tell us that they want to hear how their gift was used and the impact that it had. But all to often we fail to do this at an annual giving level.

In addition to creating an accountability report for your annual giving donors, there are other ways that you can using stories and accountability for better donor stewardship.

Four Stories in Stewardship

If you are considering an annual accountability report (and I highly suggest you do), here are four types of stories you could tell your donors to highlight their impact.

  • A client’s success story – If your programs and services are benefiting people, sharing a client’s success story is a great opportunity. After all, these are the people who have directly benefited from a donation that made a program possible. Donors will want to hear about positive changes in their lives.
  • A program staff member’s story – Personally I love hearing from program staff members because they have such a fiery passion for their work. And if you have a difficult time collecting stories from clients, staff members might be able to share their accounts of the program.
  • A volunteer’s story – These stories are not as common, but I think that volunteers play a vital role in the non-profit sector and they also enrich our communities in many ways. In fact, they are often deeply impacted by the work that they are a part of and their first hand account might be something that your donors could easily relate to.
  • A story from a fundraiser who was involved in the project - This might be a less common story, but I think that fundraisers will sometimes have an interesting prospective on what a problem in the community was like prior to there being funding for a program solution. Don’t shy away from giving the fundraising team a voice!

August 26, 2013

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