A fundraising campaign’s story is the most important part.
And the first step in learning to write an effective story is understanding why it is so important.
When starting a new campaign, we see organizations inundate their future readers with heaps of information. Too much information. Information that is irrelevant. And they include all this because they believe that information is the reason the story is the most important part of their campaign.
Alas, it is not.
Your campaign story is the most important part of your campaign… because of the emotions it sparks.
Think of your favourite book, movie, or television show. Why do you love it so much? Because you feel deep emotions when you read or watch it.
Let’s start at the beginning…
…waaay back to the days when our ancestors were hunting and gathering, and it didn’t seem to be in their best interests to be distracted by their buddy’s tale of a bear attack. After all, how will they protect themselves against that cougar that’s stalking them if they’re engrossed in this guy’s detailed explanation of how he whacked the bear with a club and hid in a rock crevice for two days?
There must be a reason we evolved to want to lose ourselves in a story.
And that reason is exactly what you think it should be: survival. Our caveman buddy’s bear story is teaching us what to do if we are ever in that same situation.
Disclaimer: if you ARE ever in that same situation, please don’t hit the bear with a club. That’s a bad idea.
But to want to pay attention to this story, rather than just acknowledge our buddy’s daring (yet questionable) actions, our ancestors would have needed to get something out of it, even if they didn’t understand how or why it would directly affect them.
Enter dopamine. This hormone makes us feel all those warm and fuzzy feelings. Our buddy’s bear story is intense and engaging, so we are excited: we’re happy he’s alive, and we’re keen to learn what to do (or not to do) if we face a bear ourselves. We, therefore, have a higher chance of surviving future attacks and reaching our goal, which is to pass along our genes.
Assuming that cougar hasn’t gotten us first.
Now let’s apply what we learned to our fundraising campaign story.
With our campaign stories, we hope to accomplish two goals:
- Donations to drive the solution to a specific problem
- Brand recognition and loyalty to aiding in future donations
Number 1 is simple. We need funds right now.
Number 2 is a bit more involved. Crowdfunding doesn’t have to JUST be a one-off means to fund an immediate need. Done well, it’s a way to generate a following of loyal advocates who will help you increase your donations over time. And you gain those loyal advocates (people familiar with and admirers of your brand) by appealing to their emotions. By triggering dopamine release in their brains. By making them feel something. Then, not only will they donate once, but they’ll follow along with the story as it grows.
And your story will grow. Whatever you write is just the beginning. The donations you seek will fund the solution to a problem you have recognized and communicated effectively in your story. If someone is interested enough to donate, they are interested in seeing how the story ends. You’ve encouraged them to imagine a world with your specific problem solved, and now they want to see it happen. Then they’ll bring their friends and family into the story, and look – you have just landed a few new loyal advocates.
So, to summarize: A good campaign story is an entertaining one which releases dopamine into our brains, making us feel emotionally connected to it (because, intuitively, we want to know what we would do when faced with that problem) and encouraging us to be part of it by donating and following along with it. Then, we share with our communities, who share with their communities, and all of a sudden… we have written a story that’s changed the world.