How often have you heard that our job in development is “storytelling?” It’s a platitude we’re all familiar with, but it’s often confused by fundraisers and our partners, leading us to dominate conversations without listening to donors.

Stories – of how our organization impacts a cause our donors care about; about how our donors learned the power of generosity; about why giving to our organization is meaningful to our donors – these all matter.

But we aren’t the ones who should tell these stories. Our donors should.

This recent article about the power of storytelling reminds us that stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

Our job is to help our donors tell us their stories about who they are and how they came to care about our cause and our organization. When we prompt with the right questions, we allow our donors to tell the story of their passion and generosity, and why it matters to the cause we’re working for together.

Consider how the types of stories suggested in this article can be remade as questions to prompt your donors’ stories:

  • How did you come to understand your core values?
  • What are you proudest of in your life?
  • Have you ever had a conversation that changed your life?
  • Did you ever win over an important, skeptical customer?
  • How does your professional success align with the issues you care so deeply about?
  • How did you learn to care about the issue our organization addresses?
  • Who taught you the value of generosity?

When you ask the right questions, you allow the donors to make your case – and they’re more likely to remember it! When engaged in this way, they’ll be more receptive to hearing your story too.

To continue to start your new year with a few good reminders to support your success, check out the tips in my blog, “The Art of Listening.” And, I share more about probing questions in my book, Productive Conversations with Donors: A Handbook for Frontline Fundraisers. It shares specific questions that I’ve seen used to great success, discuss how these questions can help overcome objections, and more.

Recommended Posts