Tell the Perfect Fundraising Story for Your Campaign [+Examples]

What's your fundraising story? This is the key to crafting a compelling campaign that drives more donations and creates lasting, impactful relationships with donors. But it can feel overwhelming sometimes to figure out what your story is – and how to tell it well. In this article, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of telling fundraising stories that stick, inspire, and engage.

7 minutes read
Tell the Perfect Fundraising Story for Your Campaign [+Examples]

Storytelling has been a part of human communication for centuries. Stories are how we connect with each other, how we learn new things, and how we make meaning from our experiences.

Storytelling is an important tool for nonprofits, too! Since so much of nonprofit work is qualitative instead of quantitative, storytelling helps nonprofits show the full extent of their impact. And connect with donors in a meaningful way that inspires more donations!

In this article, we’re going to talk about how to use storytelling in your fundraising campaigns, and we’ll even include some examples to get you inspired.

Harnessing the power of storytelling can help you boost your fundraising and show off your important work. Here’s how.

How Does Storytelling Improve Your Fundraising Campaigns?

Whenever you launch a new fundraising campaign, you have two tools available to gain donor trust and interest:

  • Statistics and numbers, or quantitative value.
  • Stories with feelings and characters, or qualitative value.

Both of these elements are important. But there’s a reason why the qualitative value might be more engaging for your audience.

Fundraising stories are unique opportunities to demonstrate your worth as an organization. A descriptive, detail-rich story about one of your beneficiaries will connect with a potential donor. And when donors feel more connected with the work your organization does, they’re more likely to give.

Studies show that storytelling makes a big impact. Network for Good and Vanessa Chase of The Storytelling Non-Profit surveyed more than 400 nonprofits about their storytelling practices and found that 55% saw improved fundraising results.

In the below webinar, Donorbox was in conversation with Tamela Spicer, a nonprofit strategist, coach, and trainer, who provided insights on how storytelling and effective fundraising are closely connected. She explains the 3 essential pillars of fundraising stories – which are “Think, Feel, and Act”. Learn more by watching this video –

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5 Essential Elements for the Perfect Fundraising Story

1. Established credibility

When it comes to fundraising stories, credibility means making your organization as reliable as possible. You can establish credibility in your writing with clear and accessible word choices, an honest tone, and a clear motive for telling your fundraising story (i.e. a clear call to action).

But you can also establish credibility with online tools that help share a story and accept donations, all in one place.

Donorbox Crowdfunding lets you post your fundraising story with images and videos alongside an easy-to-use donation form. A goal thermometer helps you stay transparent about how your fundraising efforts are going. Your campaign also includes social media buttons that encourage donors to share your story with others.

Campaign visitors also have the option to subscribe to campaign updates. This helps you efficiently convert them into donors through increased credibility.

See this live example of a crowdfunding campaign on Donorbox. Their storytelling is strategic with a shorter version and a longer one. Check out all the components of the page that facilitates storytelling, shareability, easy giving, and donor acknowledgment with a virtual donor wall.

crowdfunding storytelling

2. Developed characters

The key element to any good story? Characters!

Your characters should be clearly established in your story – who they are, what they’re like, and what problem you want to help solve or have already solved for them.

Choose specific details to characterize the people in your story in a succinct and on-topic way. Note that your characters don’t have to be someone your organization directly served! They can also be staff members, volunteers, or members of the community who have witnessed your work.

They don’t have to be human, either! Animal shelters sometimes have the best characters.

Pro tip: Pictures go a long way to helping audiences connect with fundraising story characters. Donorbox fundraising pages are optimized for picture and video content so you can use visual and written storytelling! For example, check this fundraising page on Donorbox, which includes the fundraiser’s personal story as well as videos and pictures of his work for street dogs.

donorbox fundraising page

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3. A beginning, middle, and ending

All good stories have some sort of narrative arc. Most stories follow this basic plot structure: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, and falling action.

Fundraising stories have a similar but simplified arc that looks something like this:

  • Describing the problem.
  • Introducing the character(s).
  • Amping up a sense of urgency.
  • Demonstrating the organization’s role in the life of the character(s).
  • Resolving the issue – where the character(s) is/are now.

This beginning, middle, and ending are key to showing the full extent of your nonprofit’s impact.

Pro tip: Post updates on your crowdfunding page, especially if you’re fundraising for one person or group of people. This helps build momentum for your campaign and ensures your story has the ending your donors wish to see! Crowdfunding campaigns on Donorbox come equipped with a “Updates” tab which helps you post updates – and also email them to your donors and campaign subscribers. See the below example.

campaign updates on Donorbox crowdfunding

Add Compelling Stories to Your Campaigns!

4. A sense of urgency

Encouraging someone to give now to support your work requires a clear sense of urgency.

Why should they part with their hard-earned money now? And why your organization?

Fundraising stories are great tools for creating that sense of urgency because they show real situations and people in need.

They do this by inspiring empathy. When donors recognize real human feelings in fundraising stories, they are more likely to feel connected – and compelled to give.

5. Specific details

Too often, fundraising stories fall short because they don’t get specific enough.

Details help flesh out situations, characters, and impact to make your story feel more real to your readers.

Include information about your characters, your organization’s actions, the situation…anything that will make a donor feel more connected to the real story you’re telling.

Here’s an example. Check out these versions of writing about the same teacher:

Version 1: She taught second grade.

Version 2: She taught second grade for 12 years at the same school, where she was awarded teacher of the year for 10 consecutive years.

Which version looks more developed and compelling? Which teacher do you already care about more? Keep these little details in mind while developing your fundraising story.

4 Inspiring Fundraising Story Examples

To help start your own story journey, here are some (more) fundraising story examples to inspire you! For each, we’ll look at what we like and what could further improve their storytelling.

1. PEN America Giving Tuesday Campaign with Margaret Atwood

PEN America is a 503(c)(3) organization with offices across the US. Their mission is to empower people in America and worldwide with the freedom to create literature.

Their Giving Tuesday campaign was in collaboration with Margaret Atwood and aimed to raise $10 for each of the 1648 banned books from the last school year. This would help them seek out and prevent future bans, thus paving the way for free expression.

fundraising story examples

What we love about this fundraising story

  • There’s so much urgency convincing us to take action right away. And urgency equals the inspiration to give.
  • The comparison of our current state to dystopian fiction is compelling and adds to the sense of urgency.
  • The video is short and entertaining, with strong storytelling elements about the dire situation of banned books.
  • What’s not to love about Margaret Atwood with a flamethrower?

What needs to improve

More specific information about how one book has been banned or the overall situation they’re fighting would help people understand the process a little more.

2. Visual Thinking Strategies PK-12 Curriculum Expansion

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) works for a unique and evidence-based approach to new-age learning. They’ve started this crowdfunding campaign on Donorbox for raising money to expand their PK-12 image curriculum.

donorbox crowdfunding campaign

What we love about this fundraising story

  • The opening makes you imagine the impact right away.
  • The story makes us empathize with students who could benefit from this program.
  • The goals of the campaign are clear and seem achievable – going from 30 images per grade to 52.
  • The steps to add images are clearly outlined, showing how VTS can fulfill its mission.

What needs to improve

A detailed story about one specific student’s positive experience with this program would help connect the program with real-world stakes.

This information is available on the VTS website but could be utilized in their crowdfunding campaign as well. This makes the impact clearer and increases the credibility of the campaign.

3. The Island Cow #HelptheHerd Campaign

Put It On Pete’s Tab, Inc. lost its island shack called The Island Cow to a fire incident. Their family-run operation of 20 years, which served meals for millions was destroyed in minutes.

To support their staff and other employees who lost their jobs, they started the #HelptheHerd campaign.

fundraising campaign stories

What we love about this fundraising story

  • The specific details about the fire help us understand the significance of this tragedy.
  • We’re given good information about the staff, or characters – what they do, how long they’ve been there, and what their lives are like – to feel compelled to help out.
  • The Island Cow seems to really love their employees, which makes us feel good and much more inclined to help support (establishes their credibility).

What needs to improve

Hearing from one of the employees either in the original campaign or in the update would show us how important this campaign is and add to our sense of urgency.

They could add a video showing the immediate situation after the fire. They could also let one of the employees speak about how it affected their life overnight.

4. GaneshSpace Fundraiser: Healing Our World

GaneshSpace is a volunteer-run organization that comprises mindful changemakers working to bring social justice to people regardless of their race, gender identity, and body shape.

Their “Healing Our World” campaign aims to raise $25,000 to grow their operational costs, award scholarships, and help uplift the voices of black and queer communities.

fundraising page example

What we love about this fundraising story

  • They use statistics and storytelling together to create a compelling appeal.
  • They clearly and succinctly describe what they do – and why it matters.
  • The need for more donations is clear and concise, with strong emotional appeal.
  • The idea to break down their story into sections like impact, the use of donations, tax-deductibility information, and more improves the reading experience.

What needs to improve

This story could use a video, like the one they’ve embedded on their website homepage. It shows people the situation they’re striving to fight. And creates an instant connection with the audience.

Including a specific example about someone impacted by this organization would further demonstrate their value.

Telling more of a story about Kim Thai, the founder, would be an interesting way to show the urgency of an organization like this (why they founded it, etc.).

Start Telling Perfect Fundraising Stories

Humans find connection through stories, and connection makes them feel good – and inspired to act. That’s why storytelling is such a critical tool for fundraising campaigns.

By including the essential elements, fundraisers can use stories to transform their appeal for donations. And raise more money to further the organization’s mission.

Donorbox is here to help make your fundraising stories effective. With crowdfunding tools that help you harness the power of the crowd, reliable online donation pages, event ticket sales and management, and more, make the most out of your nonprofit storytelling. Learn about these fundraising features on our website. Sign up for free to start fundraising today!

We have hundreds of articles to help your fundraising and management efforts at the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the best collection of all these resources in your inbox every month.

Lindsey Baker

Lindsey spent years wearing many hats in the nonprofit world. Whether she was helping arts nonprofits with their messaging and content, planning a fundraising gala, writing an NEA grant proposal, or running a membership program with over 400 members, she learned how to navigate – and appreciate! – the fast-paced world of fundraising. Now, she loves sharing those hard-earned lessons with the Donorbox community.

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