One of the most powerful tools you can apply to your crowdfunding campaign is your instincts as a storyteller. Clear, engaging and humanizing stories transform passive readers into active donors and sharers. Humans love a well-told tale; while modes of storytelling change, our appetite for them transcends culture, age and era. The more powerful your story, and the more effectively you tell it, the more successful your campaign will be. For people who don’t spend a lot of time writing, though, weaving together an effective story can be intimidating at first.
It’s easy to get hung up in the beginning stages of writing a story, especially if you’re trying too hard to craft the perfect title or opening sentence. If you can’t get the ink flowing, consider starting with a highly structured first paragraph and then coming back to it later. Start with a sentence that introduces yourself and the main characters of your story to your readers. Give them the most relevant information first: how do you define yourself in relation to your story? Some aspect of your identity thrusted you into the crux of the action. Whether it was your role as a mother, an entrepreneur, an environmentalist, or a cancer survivor, etc., something lead you to start this fundraiser. Identify your relationship to the story and its key players.
Try to keep the introductory information brief; you can always add more context as it becomes relevant later.
Example: My name is ____, and I’ve spent my life _____.
Don’t Bury the Lead
It’s important to keep this introduction short so that your opening paragraph doesn’t get bogged down with clarifying details. When writers add too much backstory early on, they risk burying the lead. But what is this lead?, you may ask. Great question! Your “lead” is the event or experience that raised the stakes for you as a character in the story. It’s the challenge that forced you to ask for help. What event lead you to take action and eventually turned you towards crowdfunding? Whether that moment took place in the boardroom, a doctor’s office, or at the kitchen table, try to convey its importance succinctly by summarizing it in a sentence or two.
Example: My life changed dramatically when _____.
Context and Chronology
You’ve introduced the key players in your fundraising story. You’ve outlined the major struggle they face.
Now explain what you’ve been doing so far. How have you or your loved ones attempted to overcome the challenge that’s been presented to you? What additional hurdles have you faced, and how have they changed you as a person? Take this opportunity to describe the effect of your struggle on your family, your local community, or society as a whole.
Feel free to add more context now that readers have the basics. Weave in any additional information about the story’s characters as it becomes relevant, and attempt to outline the events of your story as clearly as possible.
Check out the updates section in the Help Save Matthew! campaign for a good example of this stage of storytelling. By highlighting both the ups and the downs of his tumultuous battle with cancer, Matthew’s wife Katia heightens suspense and makes readers invested in the outcome of Matthew’s treatment. Posting updates to your campaign page as important events unfold is essential to telling your story effectively.
Example: When _________ happened we made a choice to __________. And then this was the result ___________.
Why Should We Care?
This is the main question in the back of a reader’s mind and the most important question your story should answer. People care about stories that feature likable characters confronting relatable problems. That doesn’t mean you need to depict yourself as a saint; in fact, people often feel a greater connection to imperfect characters who are doing their best under extreme circumstances. Be honest about your limitations, and explain how your problem impacts those around you. People often turn to crowdfunding in moments of personal tragedy, so telling your story requires courage and honesty. One reason that the Riley Sandler fundraiser was so successful was courage and how Riley’s parents communicated their daughter’s personality and spirit, even in the face of a great loss. While it may be scary and painful to broadcast a your most vulnerable moments to the world, your honesty allows readers to form a connection to the people in your story.
Title Your Fundraiser
It’s often helpful to come up with a title for your fundraiser after you’ve written out your story. This will help you gather your thoughts and summarize the ethos of your campaign in one standout line or phrase. Whether you’re drawn to something quippy like “Jen’s Tumor Eviction Fund” or a more straightforward name such as “Save Allison (New Mother With Brain Cancer),” an effective title will highlight the major challenge of your protagonist and stick out in a reader’s brain. Alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds, often makes a name more memorable, such as “Help Stacee Flygare Kick Cancer!” Keep your title short and straightforward, but make sure it does contain some relevant information about your fundraiser.
Example: “Help ______ Knock Cancer Out!” or “Fund ______ in His Time of Need”
Edit Your Story
Keep your language clear! Avoid long, rambling sentences and abrupt shifts in tense or point of view. Read your story aloud to yourself to hear how it sounds, and ask someone you trust to give you feedback. The more people who read your story before you publish it, the better, especially if they have a background in writing or editing. Break up your story into sections so that readers aren’t faced with one big block of text, and use subheadings to underscore the main theme of each section. Make sure to reread your story one final time before posting it so that you can catch any typos or small errors.
Suggestion: Often, asking for advice is the best way to get donations. There’s a saying in fundraising: “When you ask for donations you get advice, and when you ask for advice you get donations.” With this in mind, ask your network for feedback on your story. Or an advanced tip you can find and reach out to storytelling experts on social media.
Once you’ve written your story, use photos and videos to make it more personal, and share it on your social media accounts so that more people can see it. Remember to post updates even after you’ve shared your fundraiser, so that invested readers can find out what happens to you and your loved ones.
Launch Your Campaign Today
Storytelling requires strength and bravery, but remember that by talking about the challenges you’re facing honestly, you’re allowing people to form a connection with you and your cause. The greater the connection is, the more likely your fundraiser will be a success. Ready to tell you story? Start your free fundraiser today.