When I was in high school, it was the highly-anticipated movie event of a lifetime.
None of the theaters nearby were showing it – yet. But my friends and I were determined. We located a theater 40 minutes away.
The next problem: how would we get there?
My parents couldn’t give me the car that night. And it was the same with two other friends.
Then Tom secured his parent’s station wagon. All of us piled in and began our journey.
We found the theater (no Google maps!). We bought our tickets and found our seats. The screen went black. Then words, in blue type, began scrolling:
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
We knew the trouble had been worth it.
The power of story in our lives.
No one ever has to teach us how to get lost in a story, for the same reason no one had to teach us how to melt into a hug. It’s biological.Lisa Cron
Stories are the best teachers. They’re a brain-driven reward system.
From our earliest ancestors, gathered around a fire at night, stories are human. They teach us from another’s experience. They expand our world.
Stories create oxytocin. Character-driven stories consistently cause oxytocin synthesis. Oxytocin is the brain’s “safe to approach others” signal. It’s what floods a new mother’s system when she nurses her baby.
The brains of a person telling a story and those listening to it can synchronize. Stories build trust and enhance empathy. And of course, that’s why you’ll want to use them in your fundraising.
Feelings, not facts
Here’s a simplistic explanation but I think it will help. Think of your brain as part emotional, part analytical. You might assume that the best way to persuade someone to do something is to offer reasonable facts.
This is what happens when your fundraising communications show off your beautiful statistics.
The problem? Facts and stats light up the analytical part of people’s brains. And that’s the part that says, “Don’t give up your money!”
Appeals that come down to: “We need to reach our budget goals for the year” are so uninspiring. Budgets don’t have feelings.
We need to reach into the cooperative, emotional part of people’s brains. The part that empathizes with what someone else is feeling. And the human way to do that is through stories.
Think of your favorite book or movie. One where you became totally engrossed in the story. Have you ever been so involved that your body twitches when the protagonist gets hurt? Or cried when they cried?
I’m currently re-reading the whole Wheel of Time series. I’ll be engrossed in those books for months. The characters will become part of me again. I’ll feel their feelings.
Stories are how we learn to share each other’s burdens. They move us to help because we’re feeling what someone else is feeling. And our brains are right there with us. We’re rewarded – chemically – when we do something good.
Telling stories makes us vulnerable
Telling good stories – the kind that will open other people’s hearts (and brains!) – asks that we share the same feelings we’re communicating. It does require some bravery from the writer. You need to be willing to put yourself in your protagonists’ shoes – especially if they’re full of holes and the ground is frozen.
But isn’t that really what fundraising is about? Fundraising writing is sharing one person’s story – their humanity – with another person. And inviting that other person to become part of the story.
[…] So you’re (more) convinced that stories are the way to win over hearts. […]
[…] you’ve been wondering why I’m making such a fuss about stories, read […]
[…] Humans are drawn to stories, so using these storytelling strategies can make your supporters more inclined to read your blog posts and return to your website again and again to get more! […]