How To Write an Impact Story to Donors of One Person's Transformation [Free Template]
My son Mickey was reading a heartbreaking book for his high school English class. The Other Side of the Sky is a memoir of a girl who grew up in war-torn Afghanistan... and her perilous journey to the United States.
Mickey looked up from the book asked, "Why do they make us read depressing books like this?!" He went on to explain the series of horrifying events in this girl's young life. As the minutes drew on, he was going through a variety of emotions.
He was trying to make sense of the injustice.
"Yep, kiddo," I said. "That's precisely why your English teacher assigned the book: so you can feel ALL THE FEELINGS."
I told him that stories like this help him to understand the world we live in.
And these stories provide the tools to imagine a better future. ❤️
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As someone who works in the nonprofit world, you know firsthand how powerful stories are.
We humans crave stories to better connect to each other. Stories motivate us to create the change we want to see in the world.
That's why it's so important to share stories of impact with donors.
Donors need to see the work that they make possible. They need to feel the pain to help end it.
This is how they stay connected to the cause and your organization. Stories from you bring them into the "inner circle" of the work. And, as a happy consequence, you have a better chance of retaining them as donors.
* * *
Your Donor Impact Story Template
One way to show donors their impact is to tell them a story of one person's transformation. Here's a template you can use to write a nonprofit story that donors will love.
You can download the template and save it to a folder for the next time you write a story about the transformation of one person.
Also: If you'd like to see a real-world application of my template, check out this blog story I wrote for Orbis International.
STEP 1: Introduce the Story
- Convey the problem the person encountered.
- Express that the solution arrived just in time.
- Connect the donor to the impact.
- Use curiosity to entice the donor to keep reading.
STEP 2: Remind Donors of the Big-Picture Problem
Frame the overarching problem as it relates to the person.
Update the donor about the work to solve the overarching problem.
Give thanks to the donor for their contribution to solve the problem.
STEP 3: Emphasize the Problem
State why your organization is dedicated to the cause, tying the reason to helping people like the person in the story.
Use an image to add interest and strengthen the story.
STEP 4: Tell the First-Half of the Story
- Tell the story of the person up until the solution, creating tension.
- Explain that the story may sound unusual, but remind the donor that this affects people like the person in the story. That's why this issue is so urgent and needs to be solved.
STEP 5: Show the Solution-in-Action
- Choose an image that shows the solution in action.
- Write a caption that ties the donor's impact to the solution.
STEP 6: Tell the Second-Half of the Story
- Tell the dramatic turn of events of how the person was helped... releasing the previously-created tension.
- Give thanks to the donor and tie that to the work of the organization.
- Use images to show the end result and to visually break up the text.
STEP 7: Illustrate the Impact of the Work
- Highlight the importance of the work, with outcomes.
- Show what the donor has made possible. Use images, copy, infographics, etc. to best convey the success.
STEP 8: Jump Back Into the Story to Show the World of Possibilities
- Affirm the promising future for the person who was helped. (Despite the challenges they faced, what are they now able to do/accomplish?)
- State also what this success means for the greater community.
- Thank the donor for their role in helping to make this work possible.
STEP 9: Call the Donors to Action
- Invite the donor to help build on this life-changing work with a gift.
If you'd like to see this template in a real-world application, check out this story.
Aside From What to Say Is How to Say It
That's a trickier thing. That takes practice.
But do not worry, dear friend! The magic is in you.
You were born to tell these stories...
... even if you think you are not a great writer.
... even if you don't enjoy writing.
... even if you are afraid.
As horror writer Stephen King says, “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
Tips on How to Convey a Donor Impact Story
- Keep the donor in the forefront of your mind. Above all, your story is about how the donor made a difference.
- Use simple words and keep your sentences mostly short. The donor should glide through the message like butter.
- Break up your copy with photos, pull out quotes, and meaningful graphics. This helps keep your piece snappy.
- Vary your paragraph lengths. One-line paragraphs are fine. Don't go over 6 lines. This isn't English class.
But Here's The Best Advice
Write like you are having a conversation with a good friend...
Just. All. Heart.
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