Storytelling in Legacy: Begin with WHY


If we’re doing our job right here at The Giving Crowd blog, then you’re beginning to see how asset-based giving are an essential part of fully funding your mission. But how do you as the nonprofit or church leader cultivate these gifts for your organization?

Of course, there are lots of moving parts to a proper fundraising strategy for your ministry or organization. But like any well-built house, no matter how fancy the home is, the foundation is always simple and basic.

The foundation for a fundraising strategy that cultivates transformational gifts is telling stories that communicate the purpose of your organization in a compelling and stirring way.

Begin with Your WHY

I absolutely loved the book by Simon Sinek Start with WHY. In this best selling book, Sinek breaks down the secret sauce to world-changing organizations in both the for-profit and nonprofit world. So what is the magic formula that makes customers buy into a product, company, or mission?

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

The most successful organizations not only understand clearly what their purpose is, but they have found a way to consistently convey that compelling purpose to their audience, employees, and stakeholders.

“All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

The most successful businesses know at a profound level that they exist for something higher than making a profit. In the same way, nonprofit organizations like yours have to know deeply that you exist for more than not making a profit.

Well-funded ministries and organizations have something in common—and it’s not the size of their marketing budget. Successful organizations have clearly identified their purpose and have created a language that ignites their donor base with a sense of purpose.

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”

The most effective language you could use to articulate your why is the language of stories.

The most effective language you could use to articulate your WHY is the language of stories. #startwithwhy Share on X

The Language of Stories

Stories are the language of the soul. Stories stir the emotions of our hearts—and that’s where your message has to go in order to motivate giving in donors.

Too poetic or mystical? Then consider the science of it. Research is showing that the language of stories is hard-wired into us!

Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer, recently shared in a LifeHacker article what happens when people listen to a story.

“When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.”

Stories engage all the parts of our brain that we would have used if we were experiencing the same situation as the story is telling us. This means that stories come alive to us in a way that facts and figures do not.

Good #storytelling makes your organization’s purpose come alive to your #donors. Share on X

There’s simply no better way to make your purpose “come alive” to your donors than to tell stories that illustrate, explain, and advocate for your organization’s great WHY.

Two Kinds of Stories You Should Tell

First, you must begin with the WHY of your organization, ministry, or church. You must understand at the deepest most emotional level why you exist and why anyone should care that you exist.

There are two major categories of stories you can tell about your organization’s purpose.

The first category is the positive category where you tell stories that illustrate why you are here. These are stories that have happy endings of impact, results, and testimonies. They may start with a problem, but they end with your solution.

The second category is the negative side where you tell stories showing your donor what would happen if you did not exist.

These stories answer the question, “What would our community be like for women/children/families/animals/politics/education if we closed our doors tomorrow?”

Both positive and negative stories are powerful ways to show rather than tell your donor base why your mission is critical and worthy of funding—especially funding through Gifts of Assets like real estate or planned gifts.

Your Donor’s WHY

To use storytelling effectively to cultivate transformational gifts for your organization, you must also understand your donor’s WHY.

Why do they give? What kind of change do they want to see in the world? What about the current state of things makes them angry, fearful, guilty, or sad?

On an even deeper level, you must get to the point where you understand what your donor believes in. Why does your donor get up in the morning and do what they do every day? How does the purpose of your organization match up with their great WHY?

By thinking through the big WHY motivating your donor, you’ll make them the hero of every story you tell—and that’s exactly what they are.

Your organization or ministry is just a dream broker. You make donor dreams become reality.

You’re the bridge between your donor and the impact that they so long for in this world. You’re the vehicle that can make the change they desire happen—but that change can only come when they act as the hero of the story with a gift.

So in your storytelling, make sure your donor is always the hero of the story.

Storytelling in Legacy

Every transformational gift—whether it is a gift of assets or in an estate gift—is a story the donor is trying to tell the world about their purpose in life.

Every gift is a story the donor is telling to themselves and to the world about their purpose in life. #tellastory Share on X

This is seen most clearly when a donor leaves a bequest. This last gift is a story the donor is telling the world about their values… about their legacy.

So are your stories compelling, inspiring, and relevant to your donor and her purpose?

Do the stories you tell portray values and emotions that resonate with the story your donor wants to tell the world through their giving?

Start today and make sure that every marketing message, fundraising appeal, or content piece you create contains a story conveying the reason why you exist and why your donor should care.

At The Giving Crowd, we love helping great organizations like yours cultivate asset-based and estate gifts by telling their unique story. If you want to know more how we help nonprofits and donors just like yours, give us a call today!

It’s free and there’s no obligation.

3 Modern Myths Holding Your Fundraising Back


Stop Focusing on the 9%

Nonprofits, churches, and higher education organizations often fall into the trap of going for quick cash gifts instead of tapping into the abundance of asset-based fundraising. See if one or more of these three modern myths are holding you back from your full fundraising potential.  Every season has unique giving opportunities – from the ringing of holiday bells outside a store to the cookies or popcorn sold door to door.  Giving opportunities are everywhere.

But they all focus on the same thing – the money in your wallet or checking account.

Many organizations excel at creating an emotional tug to spur a moment where you reach for your wallet. But here’s the thing…

I have done the math and it’s eye-opening.

The sum of all those moments = 9% of the individual’s giving potential.

How did I get 9%?  Let’s look at the types of things that make up one’s net worth.

Fluid cash sources like saving accounts, money under a mattress, etc., are easily accessed funds that people can use to purchase items.

Assets are tangible objects that would need to be sold to purchase something else like stocks, real estate, and businesses.

Most Americans have about 91% of their net worth in assets. That leaves 9% for liquid assets, such as savings and cash on hand.

While it will always make sense to have a robust, cash-driven church fundraising strategy, just imagine how much more you could accomplish by developing an asset-based approach as well!

Here are three myths that hold people back from the 91% of donor gifts available through asset-based funding strategy.

Myth #1: Asset-based fundraising isn’t worth the effort.

I’m not going to lie to you. Asset-based fundraising is more work for gifts that won’t come for a while (if ever).

However, the long-term gains far outweigh the effort.

Assets are an untapped resource that most ignore when it comes to giving. By offering ways for people to give out of the 91%, you can help your already generous donors be even more generous while also saving on taxes.

And the gifts you receive will also often be exponentially larger than your largest cash gifts.

Myth #2: Asset-based fundraising is manipulative.

Your donors spend a lifetime building their asset portfolios. This represents a manifestation of their long-term efforts, goals, family values, and dreams to make a lasting impact.

For many of us, it seems greedy and calloused to ask someone to give you a significant part of the wealth they spent a life building for their family — but this couldn’t be further from the truth!

By educating them on what’s possible in terms of asset-based stewardship, you expand their horizons, exposing ways for them to make a lasting impact with the wealth they have created, while also reducing tax burdens they weren’t aware of.

In short, you serve your most passionate supporters in a whole new way when you engage in asset-based fundraising.

Myth #3: High capacity donors already have accountants and lawyers that help them with these things.

It is true that these donors often have great legal and financial assistance.  However, the primary focus of these professionals is preserving resources NOT helping their clients give assets away to impact great causes.

In fact, it’s the opposite.  Most lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors consider it their job to advise clients to keep as many assets as they can.

As a result, the conversation about asset-based generosity rarely comes up, if ever.  

Of course, this opens the door for your organization to serve your donors in a whole new way by educating donors on the benefits, methods, and joy of giving their assets to the causes they care deeply about.

This issue of asset-based giving is such an important topic that we will be talking about in much more detail on future posts.

When we work with a person who has a deep passion for a mission or cause and help them create a larger gift than they realized was possible, it is a beautiful experience.

In working with individuals and organizations for many years, I’ve never heard someone say, “I wish I had been less generous.”  What I have heard many times though is, “I had no idea that I could give out of my assets to the missions and causes that I love.”

It’s time that we start having a new conversation about giving — one that releases people’s ability to make an impact. So, let’s stop focusing on the 9% and tap into the 91% of the untapped assets.

Is your ministry ready to help people go beyond the 9%? Schedule your free 30-minute discovery call to see how!

3 Massive Benefits to Storytelling You Can’t Afford to Ignore


Say Thank You and Tell a Story Worth Hearing

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools a leader has to realize their mission and bring about change in their organization. Here are three ways storytelling can improve your leadership and propel your team forward.

As a father, I have experienced first-hand that there is something special about the father-son relationship.  Perhaps that is why the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt made such an impact on me.

Shortly after being born, little Rick Hoyt was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The prognosis destroyed any hope of a normal life. No little league games.

There’s something about the unconditional love and the noble determination shown in this father-son story that inspires me.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Hoyt family, Rick, the son, was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair. One day, Rick wanted to support a local fundraiser by participating in a 5-mile benefit run. Dick, the father, embraced his son’s conviction by pushing his son through the whole 5 miles.

Since then, they have participated in thousands of events including marathons and Ironman races.  I don’t know about you but hearing the lengths to which Dick Hoyt goes to ensure that his son, Rick, is not defined by his limitations inspires me to be a better father, husband and friend. It motivates me to be a force that helps those around me to be more, do more, and achieve more.

Stories have the ability to change lives.  We use stories to broaden our horizons, as instructional tools and to entertain. In fact, just like the Hoyt’s story inspired me to step up my game as a dad, your stories can inspire your donors to support more of the work you do.

They can serve as inspiration for your staff to keep working towards your goals and objectives, even when they’re not easily attained. Too often though, we are so focused on doing the work of our individual jobs that we fail to take the time to capture and tell the stories of impact.

Stories can propel you forward. Here’s how:

Stories stimulate the creative juices when we hit the proverbial wall. We have all been there, staring at a document cursor, an empty canvas or the never-ending to-do list. The humdrum of daily life obscures our connection to our own passionate aspirations. Stories like the Hoyt’s connect with yesterday’s dreams and re-engage us to pursue our calling to impact the world.

Stories help us seize the day by illustrating the passion during the pursuit.  Inspirational stories stimulate us to pursue that creative spark. Hearing the lengths that you have gone through to get to this point today or the amazing impact that people have had on others, draw people to gather around YOUR cause and find meaningful ways to play a part in future stories. YOU can create an entire movement because of your passion to educate your community towards leaving a lasting impact.

Stories describe that impossible situation that your team completed. Do you remember that crazy idea that captured our first client’s attention?  Do you remember what it was like on your first job?  “Crazy ideas” like pulling your son in an inflatable boat while you complete the first leg of a triathlon aren’t as crazy as they sound. Even if you haven’t found the solution to that impossible dream, there are people out there who want to engage their skills and the means to create a plausible solution to that impossible dream.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful gifts we have to see the possibility in the impossible and change lives. Whether it is our personal testimonies, a story of overcoming hardship or a story of a life made better through the mission of your organization, there is nothing that has greater potential to change someone’s perspective. You have all the tools you need to succeed. The question still remains: are you investing the time, energy and resources needed to surface and share your organizational impact stories?

Is your organization living out a story worth retelling?