Once upon a Time…Adopting a Narrative Approach to your Case for Support

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” ~ Robert McAfee Brown

If there was one message that came across loud and clear throughout the plenary presentations at the 2014 CAGP national conference it was the importance of knowing how to shape and share stories to celebrate and promote philanthropy.   As a professional storyteller and former journalist – and someone who has been promoting a ‘narrative approach to fundraising’ for years – it made my little heart sing.

It also dovetailed nicelypaint by numbers 2 into the topic I’d chosen for my conference session: Paint By Numbers: The Ultimate Story Script for your Case for Support.  

In my experience, most organizations follow a traditional approach in developing their Case for Support (Case) and create a four-colour, ‘one size fits all’ document. While this approach can work, I believe it often falls short on delivering a compelling and convincing narrative that invites prospects to play a key role in helping the organization’s beneficiaries.

painting yr lifeAs implied by the metaphor of painting, your Case isn’t a single story, but a composition of many including the organization’s mission-in-action, impact on beneficiaries, fiscal health, future vision and strategic plans. These form the palette you use to ‘paint’ a multitude of compositions for different prospects – based on their interests and values and delivered using their preferred medium (a ‘donor-centred’ approach to communications).

During the session, I presented a sample story script designed to help prepare for Case conversations with prospects.   It contains a suggested flow in sharing stories and messages (the flow may change due to prospect preferences). Once completed, this information can be used to frame a donor conversation, a proposal, a speech or a chat over a cup of tea with friends and colleagues. It is also designed to help you discover your personal connection to the Case, thereby increasing your comfort and confidence when sharing with others.

Walking through this activity with others at your organization who are not ‘fundraisers’ can be a very meaningful exercise. Why? By increasing their understanding of the positive impact of realizing Case objectives and equipping them with stories that reinforce why their organization is worthy of support, they will hopefully share this passion and become valuable Case ambassadors.

Because the script was designed to facilitate a two-way conversation, it includes tips on when to pose questions. By actively listening, the answers will dictate which stories or facts should follow as you guide the conversation through the complete Case narrative.

Quite simply put, a well-crafted story will deliver an emotional punch which will last long after statistics and bullet points fade from memory. Stories are the most powerful tool we have at our disposal…and yet, most organizations shy away from investing resources in gathering, shaping and sharing them in a truly strategic manner. Perhaps, the tide is turning and stories may start to gain the respect we deservedly give to our financial and statistical information.

So what are you waiting for?   Dive into the sample story script and customize your own Case conversation script.

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About Norma Cameron, CFRE

Norma Cameron is owner and principal of The Narrative Company, formed in 2006 to help people and organizations understand and apply the “power of story”. Prior to this, Norma had over 20 years’ experience in communications, fundraising, organizational development, performance storytelling, public speaking and training. As an engaging keynote speaker and seminar leader, she works with public, private and non-profit sector clients. As a seasoned storyteller, she has performed at conferences, concerts and festivals across Canada and the UK.
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