A New Vision for Non-Profit Fundraising Part 1: Story Telling

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September 22, 2022
by Lori Shecter
The bane of your existence… fundraising: This is the time when everyone is thinking about the END OF YEAR push. Two million other US-based non-profits are raising money at the same time as you. Fundraising should not start in the 4th quarter, but rather continue throughout the year. Engagement and conversation shouldn’t take place when everyone else is competing for dollars. The conversations need to be ongoing, versus a gigantic screaming match.
Fundraising is like sales. And you don’t sell something without reaching them a minimum of 20 times with your message (at least). There are many solutions that I will cover over a series of articles. But first I am going to focus on  Visual Story Telling – your needs must pull on the heartstrings (and purse strings) of those who view see it.

I:  How to Visually Tell Your Story

  1. Clearly define your impact. Do you know what your impact is? Do you have your statistics at your fingertips? From organization to organization, statistics vary and each and each one is important. What are yours?
  2. Clearly define your needs and how the money is being used. Who are the people, places, or things you are going to help? How is their money going to help you achieve your goals? This is NOT your mission statement. This is granular: With $100 you will
    Feed a family for 1 week
    Save the lives of 5 animals
    Provide scholarships for 2 kids
    Help a village build a well
    Help our research on XYZ disease
  3. Visually tell your story. Nowadays, when people have the attention span of a gnat and consume news in “30 segments”, video is the most powerful way to engage your audience. If you don’t have videos of your own, there are several impressive and  inexpensive services that you can use (I understand no one likes stock videos, but if you have no choice and are unable to use actual videos, this is a good solution.)

Affordable Stock Video

Story Blocks
Motion Array
Envato Elements

II:  Fundraising Timing

I can’t say this enough: Your story should be told throughout the year. Even though it’s September, you can not only start telling your story now but also plan for next year’s stories. The focus should be on one or two “elements of need” so you have repetition and reinforcement of what you are saying. A message takes 10 or 20 times to sink in and compel your audience to pull the trigger. Instead of trying to come up with new ideas every month, become very proficient at explaining your one or two needs and impact. Here are 3 examples of video content that has performed very well
International Rescue Committee

Riverstone NYC


Humble Home:  They have a full TV channel on their website. 

III: Disseminating your fundraising message

It’s about the vehicle you use and understanding what works for your organization.  But remember, all roads lead to your website.

  1. Your website: Finding stories on your website is the most critical part of the entire process. They should look good on both desktops and mobile devices. In addition, your website should allow people to donate easily once they arrive.
  2. Social Media:  How’s that working for you? For some non-profits, gone are the days when organic reach was a thing. You need to consider setting up ad campaigns in Meta in order to reach your target audiences and get them to donate. Please do NOT forget your YOUTUBE channel. YouTube is still one of the most effective ways to get your video story out to the universe. In addition, you may be using YouTube (or Vimeo) to embed stories on your website.
  3. Email Sending:  Your lists are only as good as your database. Emails need to be written in a way that compels people to open them. Test new headlines, for example: Please help us this year to continue our work, versus  5 Insane  Facts about Our Organization that will Surprise You
  4. Secret Weapon: Video Reach Campaigns:  What exactly are they? Video reach campaigns are the next generation of buying reach in Google Ads, making it easier to buy skippable in-stream ads, bumper ads, and non-skippable in-stream ads for your campaigns. With Video reach campaigns, you can choose to reach more unique users or reach users with your entire message. Click here  to find out more about that.

I hope this article provides a different perspective on how to get started with a new direction of fundraising.


After the time that I published this, a few hours ago, this came into my Facebook feed – and I loved it. It is a story in a different way than discussed in this article, so for those of you who can’t get the video concept together, this is another, impactful storytelling example:

Today we are fundraising for Apache.

From now until Winter we are giving sanctuary to a few deserving horses who desperately need their freedom back and to be re-wilded. Apache is a 13-year-old mustang rounded up from Fifteen Mile HMA Wyoming as a yearling. He then was adopted and spent the next eleven years in a 10 x 10-foot tiny pen. He wasn’t trained and any human contact was negative and has left him traumatized and terrified, mostly of equipment and being under saddle. He’s been with an experienced trainer for four months who says in his 20 years of training horses has only ever seen one other horse as reactive and potentially dangerous as Apache.

So after trying all they could to transition Apache into domestic life they know what he needs most is space, freedom, and wildness. So he’s coming to Skydog. On a day in which the SAFE Act has died let’s keep one more mustang out of the slaughter pipeline. We know that these fundraisers don’t do as well as kill pen ones but this horse needs his freedom back. There are many ways to donate at www.skydogranch.org/donate.

We can’t say yes to all the owner requests to take mustangs but between now and #givingtuesday we are going to do our best to give sanctuary to those who need it most.

Apache,  hang in there buddy – you’re coming to Skydog.

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