Telling Hard Stories

Donors don’t always have allegiance to a specific charity which means you must compete for their attention and money in an information overloaded society.

This is where storytelling comes in. Stories are a great way to inspire action and spread your message. They can help you attract new supporters, donors and increase your reach. 

But what do you do if your story is not a soft sell – about children, the elderly or animals? Not every cause is created equal and some issues don’t get the attention because they don’t have appeal. Cute causes attract donors but often appeals for mental health, addiction, domestic violence, asylum seekers and ex-offenders face challenges.

Charities have an ability to create change and fight on behalf of people who don’t otherwise have a voice. Make your story about impact. It may not be a photogenic cause but tell your audience about the life and community changes that your work helps to bring about. If you are helping offenders, tell your story about the positive outcomes of your support for the offender’s children and families. Storybook Dads is a great example – the charity enables parents in prison to record a bedtime story for their children. The website images and stories concentrate on the children and the positive outcomes from staying connected to their incarcerated parent.

‘For many families, these story discs are a lifeline, helping to heal rifts and build vital family relationships.  It shows the children they are loved and missed. It helps prisoners to feel valued as parents and gives them the opportunity to have a positive impact on their children’s lives.

Talking about a sensitive subject can help to normalise it and dispel myths. The more you talk about what your charity does and the impact of your work, the more solvable the problem seems. What would happened to your community if your charity didn’t tackle the unpopular cause? Encourage your supporters and volunteers to promote your organisation and give them the information to be able to do it with confidence. Give talks locally wherever possible – by giving your beneficiaries a voice it will make your charity more mainstream and acceptable. 

We shy away from telling stories about the hard truth and social stigmas make those vulnerable less likely to receive donations but aren’t these the groups that need it most?

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