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Do your fundraising stories give away the ending?

Do Your Fundraising Stories Give Away the Ending?

In your donor appeals, your endings are so important! 

A misplaced story ending means your appeal might not end well.

Here's an except from page one of a pretty typical appeal letter story.

It’s a terribly sad story of a boy named Ian who has nightmares of a parent killing him. Just awful...

Screenshot showing the first page of an appeal letter story about a boy named Ian who uses a nightmare box in therapy to help him deal with the trauma of abuse.

It goes on to describe why he was having these nightmares.

Then, in the third paragraph, Ian's counselor has him draw pictures and put them in a "nightmare box" as part of his therapy.

In the 4th paragraph, we learn that because of this strategy Ian can now sleep through the night.

Let’s just focus on the story's structure. It's a tale of transformation. A story of success. Of triumph.

But the purpose of an appeal letter is to tell a story of need...

And then ask the donor to solve the problem.

Since Ian's story is completed, the urgency is stripped away.

The reader is left feeling glad that someone helped the child... but with no real sense that they are needed right now.

Why? Because the problem has already been solved by the organization.

On page 2, the appeal asks me to change a life for "one more child like Ian."

But the ask here is not nearly as powerful as it should be:

  • Your ask should come at the peak of drama.
  • Your ask should come before the problem is solved.
  • Your donors want to solve a current problem, not one that could possibly happen in the future.

So what do you need to do to make it better?

Finish the story in your thank-yous and newsletters to show impact.

Why? It’s like watching your favorite TV series. You don't get the whole story of Game of Thrones in Season 1, Episode 1. You have to wait 8 full seasons to finish the tale.

Of course, you won’t make your donors wait years for anything... but there's no reason for you to fret about telling stories of need (unresolved) in your appeals.

Just dramatize the need, then ask the donor to help (e.g., children like Ian) – and be sure to finish the story of transformation in your next thank-you or newsletter.

And there's your happy ending. 😇


While you're here...

Why not read a little more?

Here are a few blog posts you might like:

1. The 1 Forrest Gump Fundraising Secret You Need

2. How To Balance Doom & Gloom with Happy & Hopeful in Your Fundraising Appeal

3. 7 Boring Ways to Transform Your Fundraising



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