How to get donors to fall in love with your cause

February 24, 2015 / Alice / No Comments


Charities today have to do more than just tug at the heartstrings. They have to tug people out of their seats and into action. With so many worthy causes competing for donors’ attention, the pressure is on for great communication that makes hearts swell.


In my work with charities, I have seen the power of clear, consistent and coherent messaging. I have also seen the transformative effect of charities knowing and tapping into what drives their audiences. The proof is in proceeds: Create highly engaging, aligned, audience-specific stories and make more immediate and enduring connections with donors.

Here are five proven methods to crafting messages and stories that go straight to the heart:

1. Make it personal, but also universal. 

Homelessness is an issue. How an individual copes with that adversity is a story. Showing real people with real struggles is essential to getting your audience to empathize with your cause.

At the same time, potential donors are regaled with similar stories every day. They will ultimately identify most with those that drive closest to their own experiences. Homelessness only happens to some people. Fear of isolation and failure are universal. People might not know what it’s like to have a disabled child, but they know what’s it like to fear for their own child’s future. Reach out to potential donors by appealing not to what divides us but what unites us.

2. Make it real, but also hopeful. 

Charities can be very effective at telling sad stories, but don’t always offer a vital component in any successful storytelling: redemption. One of the most relatable aspects of storytelling is the hero’s journey. It’s in our DNA to want a light at the end of the tunnel, a happy ending for our hero.

Position yourself as provider of that light. Better yet, show your audience that they can be through an investment of their time or money. In the end, despair doesn’t make people invest, hope does.

3. Make your audience see clearly, but leave something to the imagination.

Of course, stories aren’t always told only with words. Images, graphics, video, facts and figures: All play a role in telling the vital story your charity is trying to communicate. But they are only effective if they work together. Words can be heavy. Numbers can be cold. Images can be open for interpretation. Blend media in such a way as to simultaneously inform, inspire and incite action.

It’s just as important to be discriminating. Great stories don’t tell the audience how to feel. Instead, they engage in a dialogue, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks with its own experiences. Less is almost always more.

4. Make your audience believe in you, and also in themselves.

Trust is the very air that any charitable organisation breathes–and consumers are less trusting than ever. Tell your own story, not just that of the populations you’re serving. Be transparent and open with your goals and your failures, your aspirations and your misgivings. You want your audience to believe in you, not just your cause.

It’s also wise to be clear about where your donors’ money goes and the direct impact it makes. Your goal is to empower them so they have tangible evidence they have made a difference.

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