Love using storytelling in fundraising? Weigh in on this question about how you actually do it, from Barry Wein, the marketing manager of the Wisconsin Historical Foundation. I share my thoughts below, and I hope you’ll add yours to the comments.

Appeal from Wisconsin Historical Foundation

Appeal from Wisconsin Historical Foundation

“I have a question for you about storytelling messaging consistency across touch points over the course of a single appeal.

At the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, we tend to run three major fundraising appeals each year — in the spring, fall and at the end of the calendar year to raise support for the Wisconsin Historical Society. We kick off each appeal with an insert (here’s the sample for this spring’s issue) placed in our full-color, quarterly magazine, titled the “Wisconsin Magazine of History,” similar in style and quality to the Smithsonian Magazine, which is mailed to our membership of approximately 11,500.

We follow the magazine insert with a typical set of touch points:

– Email solicitation
– Mail solicitation
– Phone call

Each appeal highlights a different aspect of the Society’s work through a real life, personal story of one of our supporters/members. In the case of the spring appeal, we are featuring a story about a woman’s experience discovering information about her great-great grandfather through the use of the Society’s genealogical collections when she was a kid with her dad and ultimately passing on that heritage to her daughter today.

I know that it takes a number of impressions before someone is moved to make a gift, so how much should one vary the story/message from one touch point to the next? Do I simply reuse the copy and images, just repackaging them for each channel? Or do I need to repackage her story each time with additional/differing proof points? Or do I need to add to or replace her story with other similar stories as support for the case for each touch point? Or none of the above?”

It’s a great question, Barry, and thanks for making it real with your specific example!

I’d go with repackaging, perhaps with some additional points.

Consistency in your message and your ask is really essential, otherwise it will feel like four different solicitations. Repetition is good in this case, because it reinforces and reminds supporters why they should give. I would use the same story, and retain the core elements throughout, those being woman with daughter, and woman with father, and connecting the generations.

You have plenty to work with in the insert to repackage for the email and the phone call. For example, in the email, you could lead with the woman pulling out the report to show to her daughter, which is currently in the fourth paragraph in the insert. It’s the same content, just repackaged. Depending on the format that your direct mail takes (more like the insert, or more like a traditional letter?), you may need more copy, and that’s where you could expand upon the story with some additional points. But I wouldn’t get too carried away — I think the current mix of the visuals and the letter on the insert are really nice!

What would you suggest Barry does with the story in this fundraising package? Rinse and repeat, or restyle entirely?

P.S. We are doing a three-part series of webinars on storytelling in March, and Claire Meyerhoff and I are presenting one called “Storytelling for Fundraisers” on March 30.

Published On: February 22, 2011|Categories: Fundraising, Storytelling, Writing Skills and Content|