The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

3 Storytelling Strategies for Year-End Appeals

About 30% of all charitable giving occurs at year-end, making it possibly the easiest time to attract new donors and raise money for your cause. And since the typical year-end campaign spans a few weeks and engages people more than once, it’s a fantastic opportunity to shine your nonprofit’s stories in a fresh new light.

Here are three storytelling strategies to give your year-end fundraising a creative boost.

Strategy #1: Choose one story and allow its arc to mirror your campaign touchpoints.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. A story also includes rapport building: a conflict, a character trying to solve that conflict, and the resolution. Think of these like chapters in a book.

This strategy works really well in year-end appeals because you’re probably sending two or three (or more) emails, depending on the size of your donor base or campaign. You can divide a story into “chapters” and use them as a core communications tool in your campaign.

Here’s an example:

The Nonprofit: An organization that supports cancer patients and their families.

The Story: A woman whose husband is diagnosed with cancer.

Appeal 1: Introduce the woman and discuss her challenges and uncertainty in coming to terms with her husband’s cancer diagnosis (the conflict). In this chapter, she talks about her thoughts and feelings, what it was like coming home from the doctor that day, and the experience of sharing the news with families and friends. This appeal connects donors to the person (or village, or animal, etc.) their donations benefit.

Appeal 2: This chapter shares the woman’s experience of navigating the medical system and getting her husband the help he needed (the character trying to solve the conflict). In this case, the woman answers these questions: Did the doctor answer all of her questions? Was she overwhelmed? How did she and her husband make treatment decisions? This appeal ties your story directly to the goal of your organization’s work.

Appeal 3: Here we come to the resolution. The woman shares her relief in finding this particular nonprofit, which offered her much-needed counseling and ongoing support during her husband’s treatment. This is where you get specific about your organization’s work and how donors’ money makes a difference.

Remember: In every communication, include a call to action (a donate button) that mirrors the appeal.

Strategy #2: Share stories from current donors.

Sharing stories from current supporters inspires others to give and activates peer-to-peer giving days like #GivingTuesday. Make it easy for donors to submit their reasons for giving (via email or perhaps a submission page on your website). Highlight their stories on your website and blog, in your email and newsletter appeals, and on your social channels. With each story, include a slug or headline intro like “Why I Give.” Make your donor stories highly visible, and, of course, include a donate button.

Strategy #3: Tell your story in real time.

Big year-end events like fundraising galas and telethons or giving days are natural venues for telling the story of what’s happening right now at your nonprofit. For example, if your organization is hosting a telethon, update your email list in real time:

Morning email: Introduce the event, and include a call to action. “Tune in today to our telethon. Give now to help reach our goal.”

Midday email: Update people on your real-time results—how much money people have given and how close you are to your goal. Again, include a call to action: Ask people to make a gift if they haven’t already, or thank donors for their support and ask them to share your event with their social network.

End of day: This is the “you did it!” email. Give a final tally of your fundraising efforts. Share the day’s successes, and show donors your gratitude for their generosity. Offer another opportunity to give for those who haven’t yet.

While these storytelling strategies may require a bit of planning, they’ll make your year-end appeals stand out in a crowd of campaigns and ultimately raise more money for your cause.

Adapted from Network for Good’s Nonprofit 911 webinar “3 Strategies for Using Stories in Year-End Campaigns” with fundraising and communications strategist Vanessa Chase. Download the full webinar here.

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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