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There’s a hierarchy to storytelling

Telling the story in the right way can make the difference between getting the funding and falling short. The right way involves appealing to both the heart and the head of the prospective supporter.

Speaking during the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ international conference, Lori L. Jacobwith stressed the importance of telling the story effectively, and she offered a storytellin

g message pyramid to give clarity to the process of getting the word out.

Jacobwith said that understanding comes from the top down, so that the top of the pyramid is Why the organization exists: The need for the organization. Next is the organization’s money story. Next come program messages. Finally, it is the one person example.

Because conversations start from the bottom up, however, those storytelling elements come in reverse order as talking points. A conversation starts with the one-person example and moves to the need for the organization.

Further, Jacobwith offered her Advanced Storytelling Checklist. It is as follows:

  • Carefully build the brilliant people story;
  • Include costs per day/week/month;
  • Do not ask for money;
  • Imply that there is more to do with more resources;
  • Share the organization’s “money story” or funding gap;
  • Keep the money story short and factual;
  • Remember that endings are not necessary for the story; and,
  • Repetition is necessary.


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