The Good Works Goldfish

The Good Works Goldfish

The 6 best places to get great stories for your nonprofit

April 18, 2011

You’ve probably noticed that we talk a lot about the importance of telling stories in fundraising, but lately I’ve had people ask me the best ways to get those stories in the first place.

Here’s some sure-fire ways you can find great, compelling stories that will resonate strongly with your donors:

Board members/Executive Director

There’s a reason your board members and Executive Director are with your organization. Take some time to sit down and find out why your cause is important to them personally – and then share those stories with your donors. Perhaps your board chair lost his father to Heart Disease. Maybe your Executive Director’s sister died when her family was fleeing violence in their homeland.  Your donors will feel secure knowing that the people in charge of their funds have a deep, personal connection to the cause.


Your donors themselves are a wealth of information. Keep an eye on who’s donating – maybe someone has just greatly increased their donation. Ask them why! Likewise, there’s got to be a personal reason people are donating to you for ten years or more. My grandfather lost his brother to kidney failure in the 1940s, and he found it great that his long-time support meant others could live for longer than his brother did. The stories you get from these long-time donors are often the most amazing, and sharing your donors’ stories can remind the rest of your donors about why they give – and continue to give – to your organization.

Beneficiaries of donations

Speak directly to the people who are feeling the front-line impact of your donors’ contributions. I work with a local hospital whose spokesperson is one of their most frequent patients, and who is still alive today because of the equipment donors helped purchase. It’s a message from the heart, and it simply doesn’t get stronger than that.

Families of people your organization has helped

We used to work with a national cancer charity, and we once told the story of a husband who had lost his wife to cancer. Although losing her was hard, it was thanks to advances in research, treatments and the support he received from the charity – and it was his vision to not let others suffer through the pain he had.  This letter ended up being the most successful prospect mailing in their campaign over the ten years we worked with the charity – and all because it spoke to donors on a human level about real feelings.

Organization staff

If you’ve got people working in the field overseas, find out what it’s like to be on the front line. Ask them about what inspires them to keep working for your organization and get them to tell you stories of how the work they do is better thanks to contributions of donors. This could be thanks to new equipment, better resources, more people in the field – whatever it is, it’s a great way to show that donors are getting some bang for their buck.


Your volunteers are often those who will have strong personal reasons for giving up their time to work for your charity. One of our local hospital clients had a patient with a brain aneurysm, who was at the point of death. Doctors saved her life, and now she volunteers at the hospital on the same floor she recovered on. It’s her way of giving back to the hospital that gave her the chance to live. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that your charity has volunteers who are that deeply connected to you too.

You’ve probably noticed that most stories are right under your nose! Get out there and speak to the people closest to your charity and it’ll all come out of the woodwork. Good luck.

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