Once upon a time...
At Open, all our work is based on telling stories in some form or another. There are no set rules, but get it right and your audience won’t be able to stop reading…
Stories are at the heart of everything. Most of our conversation is based on storytelling; to entertain, pass on information, evoke emotion and transport us out of the now. But stories also help us connect with different lives through a different lens, and in fundraising that’s a magic tool for turning that connection into empathy.
Here are just a thoughts things to consider before you put pen to paper:
Heart over head
A good story makes us feel something; a good fundraising story makes us do something. Encourage empathy and connection to keep your ‘problem that can’t be ignored’ as the narrative – the emotional desire to respond needs to kick in first, to override any potential barriers to action.
It’s tempting to tell the story of an incredible life-saving project, or the amazing courage of an organisation’s staff, their vision and ambitions… our clients’ work is always amazing, but it’s the impact that’s where it becomes tangible. Don’t tell the story of a programme, describe how that programme has changed someone’s life.
It’s not your story
You are not the author of a story, you’re the means to someone sharing theirs. Think carefully about where the power lies, challenge stereotypes, don’t oversimplify details or dehumanise with generalisations. Create a sense of the wider context and allow the whole person to be heard – give your voices active power not passive need.
Factual but not facts
Research (and common sense?) has shown that people-led storytelling is more effective at engaging and inspiring action than stats and facts. Allow the authentic passion and outrage, personal opinion and lived experience to lead your story – that’s the truth you’re looking for.
“You are not the author of a story, you’re the means to someone sharing theirs. Think carefully about where the power lies, challenge stereotypes, don’t oversimplify details or dehumanise with generalisations.”
Make it personal
We respond to things that speak directly to us. Bring out the elements of a story that your audience will recognise and feel emotionally impacted by. Inspire them to feel they can have a place in the ongoing narrative. Wherever in the world your story is being told, there will be threads of shared understanding and experience. We have more in common than that which divides us…
Make it stick
Find the nugget of gold that will make your story memorable – the often-tiny detail in your story that’s personal, shocking, unexpected, funny... something that will touch your audience and make your story hard to ignore or forget.
Use your words
Don’t ask your audience to do all the work. Create a picture with nuance, context and background. Use more than one voice. Give space for people to share detail and personality, not just how or why they’re in need. Don’t ask your reader to imagine; show them.
If you'd like our help to tell your story, watch our free 'How to...write for charity' webinar on our Open Channel or get in touch for a chat.