Storytelling is the unsung hero of fundraising and stakeholder engagement. When your audience connects with your brand and initiative emotionally, they are more likely to support your vision and stay involved long after their initial contribution. The best way to facilitate this deeper connection is through storytelling.
Storytelling has long been the advertising world’s closest ally, so why not bring that same creative force to nonprofits? There are a number of ways in which nonprofits can harness the power of storytelling. Here are a few steps to start the process:
1. Collect stories related to the vision, mission and impact of your organization from stakeholders.
2. Find a common thread within the stories you gather. This will generate new ideas internally and keep everyone inspired.
3. See how the stories evolve over time.
Furthermore, narratives revolving around your organization can make the most powerful, authentic, and cost-effective marketing materials. I encourage you to make storytelling part of your programming efforts for 2014!
· Foundations can play a key role in identifying ways that stakeholders can collaborate to build regional strategies for economic competitiveness;
· Involving the right stakeholders across sectors can produce transformative impact;
· True partnership with the private sector is a key success factor;
· Research is a powerful tool to forge consensus about priorities and approaches; Coming together to apply for external funding can be another organizing principle.
· Foundations are well equipped to build public support for change, but they need to go beyond traditional grant-maker roles.
Formed in 2004, the Fund for Our Economic Future is a philanthropic collaboration committed to promoting the well-being of Northeast Ohio residents by shaping and sustaining a long-term economic competitiveness strategy. The original 28 Fund members came together in response to growing problems of poverty and unemployment in the region; the Fund now has more than 50 members. Funders have pooled more than $90 million and invested more through individual economic development grants, including $141 million in grants in 2011 and 2012. Additionally, the Fund has helped the region attract more than $100 million in federal and state support.
Wednesday, November 20 Proposal Budgeting Basics with special guest Rebecca Bendlak, 9:30 - 11:30am at Kent State University-Geauga, Burton, OH Learn to prepare and present a budget in a grant proposal, and get advice from local fundraising expert Rebecca Bendlak at this special session at our network partner location in Geauga County.
Thursday, November 21 How to Approach a Foundation with special guest Paul Putman, 10:00-11:30am Learn how to build relationships with foundation prospects and prepare for calls and meetings with funders. Guest speaker Paul Putman from The Cleveland Foundation will discuss how to make a good impression on a grantmaker.
Proposal Writing Basics, 1:00 - 2:30pm This class will give you step-by-step guidance in creating a grant proposal.
Wednesday, November 13 Philanthropy Field Trip: The Cleveland Foodbank, 4:00 - 6:00pm Come with us to visit one of the key nonprofits in our region and see what philanthropy is accomplishing! Learn from the seasoned professionals who are making it happen.
Thursday, November 15 Coffee and Conversation: Social Venture Partners, 9:30 - 10:30am at the Idea Center Come meet Linda Springer, Executive Director of Social Venture Partners in Cleveland, and learn about their grantmaking priorities throughout the region.
These excerpts are reprinted with permission from Lisa Sargent, president of Sargent Communications, which specializes in direct mail and e-mail fundraising and donor care communications for nonprofits.
“Dear Friend,” the thank you letter began... and it broke my heart. Don’t they know my name? I wondered. (It was on the check I sent them, after all.)
Oh, there were a few hints that this $76 million a year charity thought anything at all of my little $25 gift: they referenced the amount, for one. And noted when it was received. But there was that vaguely unsettling “Member #” in the upper right corner. I was one of more than eight million! I felt like part of an institution, not a fledgling member of a hardworking charity.
Then came the kiss of death: the P.S. upgrade to make me a monthly donor. Mind you, this was an acquisition thank you. The first sentence after “Dear Friend” was “Welcome!” Why pitch an upgrade at this point in our budding relationship? I barely knew them!
The question I’ve always wanted to ask the author of a donation thank you letter like this one is: Do you hit up all your first dates for a monthly commitment? And based on this nifty little trick, how long do your relationships last? And they wonder why donor retention rates are tanking.
Now for the scariest part. This is one of the better letters I’ve received. Why? Because they sent one. Many nonprofits don’t. Or they wait so long to respond that the poor donor has forgotten who they are – and the moment is lost.
If you want to keep more of your donors (and set your nonprofit apart from the pack), the donation thank you letter is a perfect place to start. Next to your fundraising appeals, your donation thank you letter is the most important communication that a donor receives.
First, review your donor acknowledgement function. Give promptness top priority. Send thank yous no more than 48 hours after receipt.
Then gather a sample of every thank you that your organization sends, and do a simple communications audit using the checklist below. In fact, from fixing typos to tweaking tax language, you can make many changes yourself. Practically every nonprofit can do a better job of thanking their donors, and you don’t need a billion-dollar budget to do it.
In the end, you’ll have a well-written, sincere thank you letter that forges an instant connection. It tells your donors, loud and clear: “You matter to us...and your gift makes a difference.” It makes your donors feel appreciated for every heartfelt gift they send and keeps them giving for years to come.
The First 5 Items on the Checklist
Is it personalized? (As in “Dear Lisa” vs. “Dear Friend”)
Is the gift amount noted?
Do you start with something other than “Thank you for your gift of...”? Use an exciting lead.
Do you tell the donor when and how they will next hear from you?
If this is a repeat gift, do you also thank donor for their past generosity (and indicate all its made possible) and continued contributions/support?
Get the remaining 12 items on the checklist at Lisa's website, then get ready to ask her questions during our free live chat, "How to Thank Your Donors", on Nov. 18, 12-1pm ET. Joining Lisa will be Andrea Berry, director of learning and partnerships for Idealware, who will talk about how to thank donors via technology. We'll devote the hour to your questions!
On the second Monday of every month we join with The Cleveland
Foundation to host a #CLE4Good tweet chat. These chats are open
to everyone everywhere, especially those located throughout Northeast Ohio.
Join us to meet new colleagues, share information, get advice, and have fun.
On Monday, November 11, 2013, we are exploring how nonprofits
can improve relationships with donors. Some of the questions we'll explore
How can nonprofits “get out
of the way” and let their donors shine?
What motivates you to give?
What do you like to know
about an organization before you decide to give to them?
As a donor, what do you want
from an organization in return for your donation?
As a donor, what are your
biggest pet peeves with respect to the organizations you give to?
What can nonprofits do to
cultivate better relationships with their donors?
How can nonprofits do a
better job of thanking their donors?
for the chat:
Make sure you are following @FCCleveland, @InkPlusLLC, or@CleveFoundation on Twitter. To participate, you'll need a
Twitter account, which you can create for free at Twitter.com. At 12pm we will announce the chat has begun.
The moderator will post questions to get the discussion flowing, and get people
talking! Make sure to use the hashtag #CLE4Good at the end of each tweet so your opinions are
included in the discussion.
One tool I would recommend is TweetChat. TweetChat is a web app
that makes Twitter chats feel more like an old-school chat room. The best part
about TweetChat is that it will automatically insert the hashtag for the chat
at the end of all your tweets so you don't need to remember to add it. To use:
Are you a local nonprofit in need of some summer help on an important project? The summer of 2014 will be the 15th year of theCleveland Foundation Summer Internship program. The program is based on connecting undergraduate and graduate students with meaningful, work-related projects - projects that speak to the challenges and opportunities we face as a city.
This project should be important to your organization’s mission, and provide a meaningful work experience for the intern. The Cleveland Foundation provides the funding to cover the intern’s salary. They also help out by recruiting and selecting applicants.
We here at the Foundation Center know very well the benefits of the Cleveland Foundation Summer Internship Program. Last summer, we had the honor of hosting one of those interns--and it turned out so well, he's our new full-time Program Assistant!
It's a great deal! Don't miss out.
The deadline to apply is November 30th. Apply now!
Wednesday, November 6 Grantseeking Basics, 6:00 - 7:30pm Visit the Foundation Center-Cleveland for this special evening session and get an introduction to the Center, to the Foundation Directory Online, and to the world of private grantseeking.