What can you give your donor?


Your appeal letter, your annual report, your grant proposal, your case statement, your capital campaign, your newsletter, your website, all of these places can provide an ending for your donor, and put clean finished edges on 10 minutes of their lives.

Like my friend Vanessa Chase of The Storytelling Nonprofit says, “We need endings.”

Why do we need endings?

Because we’re born in the middle of things. We die in the middle of things.

Nothing is as simple as a novel or short story makes it.

Nothing is neat, tied up with a bow.

Everything is messy. Birth, Death, and everything in between.

Not only that, but what if life is meaningless?

Frank Kermode

Frank Kermode writes, “Existentialist man, who has total responsibility for his actions, has no relevant past. He is in a world which he not only never made, but which was never made at all. His world is chaos without potential, and he is nothingness.”

What if your donor is trapped in a prison? Not a literal prison, but an emotional prison?

What if they have money but their children don’t talk with them?

What if they have a corporate job but it sucks their soul out through their eyeballs every day?

What if they’re at the end of their life and they’re worried that their life didn’t mean enough, that they won’t be remembered?

What if their friends are dying and they feel lonelier now?

According to Ortega, “Surrounding culture– lies the barbarous, brutal, mute, meaningless reality of things.”

Your nonprofit stories help them feel a brief sense of escape from their prison. Maybe their life CAN mean more.

Frank Kermode writes, in “Sense of an Ending” that,

“To make sense of our lives, (when we are stranded in the middle), we need fictions of beginnings and endings. (We need) fictions which unite beginning and end and endow the interval between them with meaning.”

Frank kermode Quote

Unfortunately, for most of our nonprofits, even the large ones, we are not giving people satisfying endings (or beginnings).

We are not helping them feel as if their lives matter more.

This is, as Lynn Twist says, a sacred mission that we have as fundraisers.

This is what makes fundraising a calling-when we give people a chance to have more meaning in their lives.

Instead of buying a 65 foot yacht or another TV they don’t need, they could be giving to your nonprofit.

But once they give, they need to feel that beginning, that ending, and how they fit in the middle as the hero of the story.

They ARE the hero. Your program staff could not keep serving without them.

What can we do to help our donors feel that sense of an ending? To feel like their lives DO matter?

Write better stories. Write a clear beginning, and a clear ending, and put your donor in the middle.

How can you write better stories?

Check out Vanessa Chases’ blog posts on The Storytelling Nonprofit.

Also, here are some more posts about story.

How can screenwriting help you tell your nonprofit story?

9 ways to tell an old story a new way

Writing a story for your appeal letter with tips from Wired for Story

3 times a charm! Your character and the try-fail cycle

This time of year, You’re probably thinking about writing the story in your appeal letter.

I can help you do this. Join us for the Year-End Giving E-course!

Your Ultimate Guide to Successful Year End Appeals e-course

Your Ultimate Guide to Successful Year End Appeals e-course