Tell a good story. Captivate the audience. Make your mission and ministry come alive. If you have ever sought to be better in your profession as a fundraiser, you have likely attended a training that demonstrated the importance of good stories. Telling stories about the work of the ministry or the organization is one of the best ways to engage current and potential partners. Stories help us create an illustration of our “case for support”. Stories can answer “case for support” questions: Who we are, what we do, why we do it, and why should someone give to us. Sharing a good story is a powerful way to inspire and encourage people to act.
Telling these stories is effective, but is that the only purpose of stories in fundraising?
As Christian fundraisers, we know how important it is to begin and nurture relationships. All transformative ministry requires relationships. Jesus put it in this way. Love God and love others. This is His summary of being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, a servant and child of the Father. Neither of these two instructions can happen apart from good relationships.
If I am to build relationships that help me and other people grow in our love for God and love for others, I need to understand a few things about God honoring relationships.
- If I am going to have a relationship with someone, I will need to want to have that relationship. I must have a desire for it, and it will be intentional.
- Entering into a relationship, I need to believe to some degree that anyone is capable of teaching me something. From the start, can I see the other person as one of my teachers?
- Only in relationships do I have the privilege to discover and learn from stories told in the first-person perspective.
- Do I see that all lives are stories to be told? Stories people tell can be a diary (a list of his events) or a journal (how he interprets these events in his life).
- When I walk into a room does my presence say:
- “Here I am” – I talk about me, I am self-oriented
- or “There you are” – I ask about you, I am other oriented
- Relationships develop and deepen over time, through shared experiences, and by shared hopes and dreams.
Listening to and discovering the stories that other people reveal is vital for starting and enriching a relationship. But how can I draw out the story of our giving partners.
- When meeting a person, especially for the first time, ask yourself: How can I put the other person at ease? Remember – “There you are”. Begin with diary questions. Ask the person where he was born. Ask them to tell you something about his upbringing. Ask what it was like where he grew up or what did he do for fun as a teenager. People feel at ease answering questions they already know the answer to.
- How can I figure out what motivates a person to give without directly asking them? Most people’s values come from the places they come from and the early experiences in their life. Use journal questions to understand. You could ask questions like: What have you discovered about life through that experience? What has shaped your values? Our motivations to take certain actions or make certain decisions are connected to our values.
- Be curious. Ask them about things you want to learn and understand better. Every person has something to teach us.
- How can I invite them to invest in our ministry that will bring them joy? The short answer is dream together. You may ask, “What would you like to be a part of in 5 years?” By dreaming together, we are not asking them for something. We are helping them to fulfill a dream or think about their legacy.
Stories are a vital part of the role of a fundraiser. Stories help fundraisers to grow God- honoring relationships. When we tell a story, we can help our partners see opportunities to transform lives and communities. When we draw out their stories, we can help ourselves and our partners to discover a way to bring forth joy in their giving.