– Elizabeth Wagner, CFRE
Vice President, Development[/push]

Everyone loves a winner.

It’s as true in philanthropy as in sports.  When you talk about your organization’s successes, people want to participate.

Sometimes nonprofits are too good at telling their donors all about their needs: how little headway is being made on a key issue, how many people haven’t been helped.  There’s a place for this information, of course.  It just isn’t the core of your message.

Think, instead, about sharing success stories.  How powerful to talk about someone whose life was changed by your work!   The more that stories are on a human scale, the better.  Of course, sometimes you’ll have to redact names or key details in order to honor a promise of confidentiality, but that doesn’t mean that the core of the story can’t be used.

How to get these success stories?  Every organization has some.  Ask the people closest to the work.  Keep stories fresh by identifying new ones every few months, and share them – in your newsletter, with your volunteers and board members, whenever you can.  That way, by the time you ask someone to give, they are accustomed to thinking of your work as successful.

How, then, to share a real need?  Be candid.  Be concise.  Whenever you talk about a need, also identify the solution, and be clear about why your organization is a key part of that solution.

Most of all, train your ambassadors – the people who talk about your work in the public sphere, including staff, board and volunteers – to share your success stories.  They are your most powerful fundraising, and friend-raising, tool.

Next week, we’ll talk about what makes a great success story, so stay tuned.