Now that I’ve poisoned your mind with that little iconic jingle, let’s talk for a second about why that introduction was so compelling. Yes, catchy music and nice pictures helped, but from the very first words we were drawn in because “it’s a story…”
People love stories. I’ve sure that people with more degrees than I have can tell you why, but stories help us learn. Stories entertain us. Stories put emotion on cold, hard facts.
If the show started with “just the facts,” would a chart of the number of children, their ages, sexes, their biological parent and names be nearly as compelling? No. Would we get more information? Yes. Would we remember that information? Probably not. Plus, we wouldn’t spend a half hour learning about their trials and tribulations – and their advertisers (the whole point of the exercise of television broadcasting) wouldn’t get our attention so we could buy their products. The “just the facts” approach certainly wouldn’t form such a relationship with the characters that today few people remember the actor’s (yes, they were actors) real names, just their character names. From the advertiser’s point of view, if we just had the facts and not the story, we wouldn’t remember that the Brady’s were sponsored by Crest® and associate Crest® with Marcia’s shining smile.
What’s the lesson for our fundraising letters? Stories build relationships and relationships raise money. Having good solid facts to back up the stories is essential (whether or not you use them in the appeal), but you want to tell the story first and last. Use the numbers to legitimize your request – to give the understanding that the story isn’t an isolated case, but that the story represents an example of the problem your good organization solves.
Of course, I’m biased. My job is to write great stories about your clients, staff, volunteers and donors so you can raise more money. But whether you use me or an in-house staff member, remember that “it’s a story…” that gets their attention first.