The Art of Storytelling Through the Eyes of a Fundraiser

Category: Strategies Team

Door-to-door canvasser discussing charitable donation with homeowner

As I processed Tessy’s gift of $30 per month, a gift that will give children access to safe drinking water, I asked her what motivated her to give?  Her reply?  “I can hear it in your voice; you would not be doing this if you did not care…and thank you for the work that you do, for sharing their story.”

The Power of Storytelling

Storytelling is not only universal to all human beings, but it is also as old as human history itself. From drawings on caves by our primitive ancestors to sharing family traditions passed down from generation to generation, storytelling has been an invaluable source of information and provides historical relevance that helps shape who we are today. In fundraising, storytelling inspires, teaches and connects people from all communities to the work that our non-profit partners do. It’s the backbone of every campaign.

Telling the Story of your Non-Profit

Storytelling has the power to transcend people’s differences and points of view and unite them towards our human shared values. It has the unique ability to transform complex social issues into a personalized story. It is easy to understand why storytelling is so critical when it comes to the non-profit space. “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”, a popular quote by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is famous in the non-profit space, because as Cheryl A. Clarke puts it, “Numbers alone, no matter how outrageous, do not evoke the same emotional response as one strong personal story”. That is why storytelling is so important in the world of fundraising – because it puts a human face to the problem. The listener is more likely to relate to the cause and act. 

People give money and get involved with non-profits because they feel compelled to make a difference in the lives of others. People give to people. Connection to your cause and the work you do is at the heart of every action a person takes with your organization. You want to engage with prospective donors by telling stories that make them feel connected to you and to the people that your non-profit serves.  And then you want to make them stay by keeping them engaged.

Storytelling and Fundraising

Storytelling is arguably the most powerful tool available in a fundraiser’s toolkit. The outcome of sharing a well told story is a meaningful, emotional connection that evokes feelings of empathy and a desire to help. Fundraisers have personalized high-impact conversations that sow the seeds for transformative change all through an unexpected phone call or knock on a door. How does one move a person to look further and become a champion of a cause? Sharing that one special story. The potential to empower people to make an informed decision for transformational change in a short conversation is such a humbling experience. It’s about being a voice for the unheard, unseen, and sometimes overlooked. It’s being able to amplify the message of change and inspire people into action. A job I am proud to hold. 

People are understandably cautious when you come to their door, stop them on the street or call them at their homes. Being able to break through the initial doubt and to engage them is always a fundraiser’s first hurdle. It’s a daunting but a rewarding part of building rapport with the potential donor before sharing stories. Then the real task begins – the why. Leading with the why is so important because it is not just about giving someone a logical reason to make this decision to donate but putting a face behind the data. It’s about giving them a reason to believe in your cause, trust you and ultimately, to donate.

Storytelling at Globalfaces

At Globalfaces, we have roughly 800 fundraisers working on behalf of charities every day across North America. We know a lot about storytelling and creating connections. It is this connection that keeps our fundraisers motivated – so much warmth coming from the many donors we speak to daily in person or on the phone – that connects them to your brand, to your cause. Non-profits often don’t always think about the brand connection when we discuss fundraising, but even when we don’t secure a donation, those stories go a long way to educating communities a little bit more about who you are and what you do. The next time they encounter a touchpoint with your organization and hear your story, they will remember that first conversation, the stories that were shared, and oftentimes are then ready to say “yes”!

What Storytelling means to Me

I’m a tele-fundraiser, and as I wished Tessy a great day and thanked her for her generosity, I reminisced about the countless connections I have been fortunate to create through my job in fundraising. Although not all calls end like Tessy’s, there is still one thing that can be said – every conversation we have leaves the person we speak to with a powerful story to tell. With my headset on, I prepare myself to use this age-old method of communication to bring about the change that I truly believe in. 

Not only can you tell the story of those who you are advocating for, but as you start to hear the stories of the donors, and why they started giving – you hear their ‘why’ and it continues to fuel your own.


Deborah Mammah

Deborah Mammah is a Team Lead at Globalfaces. In just over a year here, Deborah has worked in various departments from; donor experience to quality assurance and donor acquisition. She uses the knowledge garnered from these different experiences to lead her team to create a positive and worthwhile experience with donors.