Fundraising & The Power Of An Unfinished Story

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

Occasionally when telling a story, I can tell when my listeners are leaning in, hanging on every word, and ready for the climax. It's at the height of that moment that, for fun, sometimes I will say, "I can tell you all are not into this; I will finish this story later." I always love it when my listeners gasp and demand that I finish my story!

I do this occasionally, and it reminds me of the power of an unfinished story. Master communicators and fundraisers leverage the power of unfinished stories to heighten impact and raise more money.

Part of being a great leader is to know how to leverage the power of an unfinished story.

Gold Nugget: Great fundraisers know how to, harness, and utilize the power of unfinished stories.

In school, your best teachers understood the challenge of involving their students in their material. They often used the unfinished story to get you engaged. Remember? They started a story and invited you to finish it.

Savvy fundraisers use the same technique to double, triple, and quadruple their income. The key: Knowing when and when not to use unfinished stories.

Gold Nugget: Knowing when to use unfinished stories can multiply a fundraiser's power.

Unfinished stories play a particular role in the fundraising rhythm that I teach. Remember the rhythm? Report, Ask, Thank (repeat!).

Most fundraisers focus entirely on finished stories. But in the fundraising rhythm, finished stories are best used in the reporting phase. When you are paying donors with stories of the lives that your mission has impacted, always use finished stories. Finished stories are used in your newsletters, blog posts, and on your webpage.

But when you are in the "Ask" phase of the rhythm, always use unfinished stories.

Gold Nugget: Unfinished stories multiply the power of your appeals in asking for money.

Like your teachers in school, in your appeal, you will start a story that is not finished and ask the donor to finish it with a gift today.

Consider with me how most fundraising appeals use a finished story:

  • Susan was suffering from the effects of alcohol, addiction, and abuse. But thanks to our mission, Susan is doing well today. Will you give us a gift to help us continue our work?

Catch this; Susan's story is finished. She has been helped. What else is there left to do but "help us continue our work."

This finished story in an appeal will work for you, but not at the level an unfinished story will.

Gold nugget: Using unfinished stories in your appeals will catch more people's attention and raise more money.

Consider this revision:

  • Susan is suffering from the effects of alcohol, addiction, and abuse. Will you give us a gift to help her stay in our program?

Did you catch it? Susan's story is unfinished. She still needs help! Your donor is prompted to finish the story by giving a gift! Your donor has the privilege of writing herself into the story! The donor gets to see that her gift will accomplish something simple and powerful - help Susan continue to receive the help she needs for alcohol, addiction, and abuse.

Most fundraisers exclusively use the finished story in asking donors to do more of what they have already done. Savvy fundraisers use unfinished stories to invite donors to help people who have not yet been helped.

Gold Nugget: The successful fundraiser who raises more money will tell a story that is not finished and ask the donor to finish it with a gift today.

So, understand that there are two major types of stories to use in fundraising:

  • The stories we tell when we want them to give - Unfinished.

  • The stories we tell later after they have given - Finished.

A finished story, in an appeal tells donors, "we solved the problem, and we really don't need you."

An unfinished story, in an appeal shows donors how they can change the world with their gift!

Gold Nugget: Donors love it when you allow them write themselves into a story that changes the world!

When asking for money, we want to tell a story of your beneficiary that leaves them at the crisis point. Then, we ask the donor to finish the story with a gift.

I hope you raise millions!


P.S. Until year's end, you can sign up for my End-Of-Year Fundraising Accelerator, it's only $49 month. If you get in early enough, you will have the time to cash in on THE most lucrative time of the year. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

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