What Is Our Money Story and How Do We Tell It?

While attending Cause Camp in March, we stopped by a session delivered by Lori L. Jacobwith of Ignited Fundraising focused on how to talk about money. A nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture change expert, Lori emphasizes the importance making your money story as compelling and inspiring as telling a client story.

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Talking about money isn’t always easy, but it’s important to let your donors and supporters know what it takes to keep water clean, mentor children, change laws or build a new school. While sharing the details of these costs alone can be dry and uninspiring, combining your money story with the story of one of your beneficiaries can be truly inspiring and often leads to more giving.

In fact, Lori tells us that in her more than 30 years of working with nonprofit organizations, she’s found that when you talk about what things cost and share what you need in order to achieve your important work, your supporters will give MORE.

So, how do you effectively and comfortably tell your money story?

Make It Visual
As with most stories, adding visuals brings your money story to life. Infographics make it simple to specifically highlight the impact of annual gifts to show your donors how far their dollar goes. An image is especially helpful when staff and board members are uncomfortable or afraid to talk about money as they can let the image do the talking for them.

Tell the Truth
Don’t be afraid to tell your supporters about the exact dollar amount you are raising and why. You have a specific amount of money you’re looking to raise each year, don’t be afraid to talk about the specifics! Share “what it takes” to do your important work. Invite them to ask questions about your costs so they become a larger part of the conversation.

Create “Mini-Campaigns” Throughout the Year
Sometimes your annual money goal appears daunting. It’s helpful to create multiple “mini-campaigns” throughout your fundraising year. Sharing these bite-size moments in time helps close your annual funding gap. Knowing your money story all year long helps get your leaders and donors excited to help reach these more manageable money milestones. Spreading your mini-campaigns out all year takes away anxiety of reaching your annual goal at year-end.

Share Funding Updates Regularly
If there’s been a change in funding streams, share that information with your supporters. You can’t expect your community to know that you need them to give more regularly if they don’t know what’s happening on your end. Don’t be afraid to be transparent if you lose a large contract or grant. You might be surprised how supportive they’ll be.

Framing the Message is Key
The way you tell your story is just as important as the topic of your story. A message about what money makes possible is inspiring. It’s not a message about how “badly” your organization is doing or how “desperate” you might be for funds. It is a message about what money makes possible that inspires. Share what can be done together to allow your supporters to fulfill their own aspirations and increase their impact.

Fill in the Gaps
By sharing “what’s missing” you provide an opportunity for supporters to fill in the gaps and make a difference. By sharing the gaps between known sources of funding and what it actually takes to deliver your quality services and programs, your community learns how they can increase their own impact. This will make it easier to invite monthly or multi-year gifts.

For many, talking about money can be uncomfortable. Being transparent about “what it takes” to support the life of one person is an incredibly powerful storytelling tool. The more you talk about the money, combined with stories about the people you’re helping, the more your supporters know how and when to help. You’ll receive more YES answers when you ask for a contribution if you’ve been transparent about your money story.

Graphic credit: California Symphony

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Lori L. Jacobwith is a nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture change expert and is the founder of Ignited Fundraising. She was named one of America’s Top 25 Fundraising Experts and has delivered coaching and training sessions that have helped nonprofit organizations raise $300 million from individual donors. Her proven strategies & tools teach staff and board members to share their stories powerfully and effectively to cause donors to give more. Lori holds a BA in Political Science and Speech Communications from the University of Minnesota, has additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School and is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).