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 Click To Tweet

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. Click To Tweet

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 Click To Tweet

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.