Are We Missing the Most Motivating Stories?

Erica Branda

By Erica Branda, Branda Communications

I just watched the thought-provoking 2009 TED Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in which she warns of the dangers of representing any culture or person with a single story.

It made me think about the stories we tell in fundraising. Are we painting the whole picture? Are we missing opportunities?

According to the most recent Statistics Canada survey on volunteering and charitable giving in Canada, 82% of Canadians make financial donations, and the average level of giving is $531 per year.

Yet a quick (non-scientific) scan of the websites of some of Canada’s larger non-profit organizations tells me that all donors are wealthy. We do a great job of announcing million-dollar research chairs, big gifts for new facilities and large corporate donations.

Of course this is necessary. These large gifts represent the bulk of the dollars we raise, typically allow us to shed light on something new and exciting in our organizations and are most likely to be picked up by traditional media.

But where is the story about the 22-year-old woman working in an entry-level job who deeply believes in your cause and has committed to donating $10 every month? What is motivating her to part with some of her limited disposable income? There is likely something deeply compelling behind it and a story that will motivate donors of all shapes and sizes.

Social media gives us the opportunity to share these stories widely and demonstrate how our organizations are relevant to a wide range people. Publishing stories that touch the typical Canadian donor can help us tap into new networks and build stronger relationships with existing donors.

They say that your next major donor is someone who is already giving to you. Celebrating these people today can have a big pay-off in the future.

Erica Branda believes that people give to people, not organizations. After spending close to ten years creating motivating stories about donors and gift recipients as the Director of MarCom for SFU Advancement, she has founded Branda Communications.

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