5 storytelling tips from #NPStoryConf


Last week I attended the most frustrating conference I’ve ever been to.

Why? Because the ideas that were shared were so good that I was frustrated I couldn’t implement them right away.

What I really mean is that it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to.

There were a lot of new insights, but even more than that, there were key messages that were reinforced by presenter after presenter. It really made me think about how we need to take a step back from our crazy day-to-day work, and focus on what we’re communicating to donors, and how important it is.

I know taking a step back is tough at this time of year, so I’ll try to make it easier for you with 5 storytelling tips + 1 silly bonus fact. Enjoy!

SMIT = Single. Most. Important. Thing. What’s the SMIT for your direct mail letter? What one thing do you really need to tell donors? That’s what Tom Ahern tells us to focus on.

“I try to write a letter with no speed bumps or brick walls.” This quote came from Leah Eustace. All the presenters urged us to keep our donor communications free of obstacles – write it at a 6th grade reading level, and avoid statistics or anything that takes the reader out of the story.

Donors don’t give to fund a process. They give to solve a problem. This line came from Jeff Brooks, but really everyone said it in one way or another. Don’t focus on what you’re doing to get there, focus on what “there” is. Donors want to be part of the solution. Inspire them to feel that.

Our job as fundraisers is to make gifts feel real for donors. This came from Steven Screen, a fantastic direct response fundraiser. He was differentiating between making a purchase and a donation. When you buy something, you get something. When you make a gift, you don’t. Our job as fundraisers is to ensure the gift still feels real.

If we’re fundraising on Facebook, we need to target the same people as we do with our other communications, and with the same kind of messages. Sean Triner presented first-thing Friday morning and I felt so validated by his message: “Old fashioned ads to older people online.” Don’t seek out young donors with fancy new messages (unless you don’t want money). Reach your main donor group, just on a different channel.

And finally… BONUS!

A lift note is called a lift note because it tends to lift results. This is a silly one via John Lepp, but I’ve been talking about lift notes, always wondering why they’re called that… Like, duh!


Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

6 thoughts on “5 storytelling tips from #NPStoryConf

    • That was one of my favourite things, Lea, that presenters really reinforced other presenters’ ideas and shared them in a different way. I left feeling so certain of what needed to be done. Yay! Thanks for reading!

  1. Pingback: Turning off autopilot. | What Gives???

  2. Pingback: The Nonprofit Wrap-Up – November 2016

  3. Pingback: The Nonprofit Wrap-Up – November 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *