According to Anna Walsh, successful fundraising campaigns are all in the storytelling, especially when it’s integrated.


Fundraising campaigns are all in the storytellingRecently I was lucky enough to be sitting in a great review meeting with some smart, conscientious fundraisers. The review was of a telemarketing campaign that we’d run at Ways Phone and the campaign was a small part of a much bigger engagement and fundraising project. The telemarketing element was added really close to the live date of the project, so we’d had little time to plan any brilliant strategy.

It all came out nicely in the wash and the campaign went well but, having been robbed of the luxury of time to really think during the planning stages, we all really enjoyed looking back and having a think about what we’d do next time around. The resounding, gong-like, one-thing-we-should-do was the integrating of all of the parts of the story we were trying to tell, wherever possible. This, of course, is easy to say and harder to do. So let’s have a look at that…

Looking at the puzzle

Think of your donor journey as one big jigsaw with each one of the touch points along the way being its own jigsaw piece. If we manage to put the pieces together so they fit, each of them slotting in with the next piece along, when our donors see the puzzle, they will be able to see the picture we are trying to show them much more clearly than if we were just handing them the pieces as we thought of them.

Putting the pieces in their best places involves having a good stare at all of them and comparing them to the picture you want them to end up forming and then, of course, moving things around in accordance. Any new jigsaw piece of communication, any new touch point that we are using to connect with our donors, should be built from the process of stepping back and having a good look around from the point where your donor is standing. What can they see? Is it a picture of your proposition or is it jigsaw pieces all over the table where the box was upturned?

The pieces need to fit together

Have you ever sent an EDM that reads as if you, the writer, have no idea that you have also just sent an SMS to that same person, or you are about to call them? Have you ever called a donor without knowing you’ve just sent them a letter? Yes, of course you have, because we have all had to do this as fundraisers at some point. We don’t, however, tend to send text messages to our friends and then call them up and pretend we’ve not sent the texts. That looks weird to our friends. This is a good rule of thumb to work by because it looks weird to our donors too. Or, worse, just uncaring.

The more pieces in the right place, the clearer the picture

Whenever you have the luxury of any time at all, carve out as much as you can to stare at the jigsaw pieces and see how they fit together. Draw a diagram, talk it through with a colleague, do a spider chart if things get desperate, whatever. Make it so you can see what your donors will be seeing. Then add pieces that make sense and that fit into the pieces that are already there. Plan from here and revisit here each time you’re adding a new piece to the story. Stuff will start to make sense.

Tips for finding and positioning pieces when the box has been lost

I have used a simplistic metaphor here to make my point (and hopefully to motivate a couple of us to commit a bit more deeply to making our stories make more sense), but I’m not pretending it’s an easy task. I believe this is what Seth Godin or Steven Pressfield would call the ‘emotional work’. Because, crikey, that’s what it is.

One of my clients currently has, I think, three separate databases that they need to tap into for their fundraising programs. These databases are silos. For the time being, this fundraiser literally couldn’t tell you what individual journeys their donors go on. They can’t, obviously, stop fundraising until they get all of that neatly squared away. So what next in the interim?

Failing the integration of all parts of a story, try to integrate as many as you can. If that’s just two pieces for now, it’s still better than none. If the call you’re going to make to a donor tomorrow acknowledges the call you made to them three months ago, take your small victory. Try to integrate a little more each time you do something new and at some point you’ll have a bigger, cumulative victory. Don’t give up early because you can’t have everything now.  Put effort into gathering your donor information internally. Within organisations, specific people often own knowledge or have the keys to the knowledge you need.

If you are trying to get intel, don’t just ask for it. Show the gatekeepers how important it is to your project, to the organisation and to your donors. Make like the fundraiser that you are and show the people how they can make a difference. Never underestimate just staring at stuff until you figure it out. Never.

Lastly, as Bluefrog founder Mark Phillips said at the F&P Fundraising Forum last year, “It starts with the brief.” Decide exactly what you want, what you think you need to do it and write it up well enough so that all stakeholders will want to sign off on it.

It is the emotional work but it is, far and away, just worth it. Happy puzzling!

Anna Walsh

Anna is a fundraiser and an obsessive nerd about how we communicate and how to do it better. She’s been professionally obsessing for about 15 years now and has been lucky enough to do so in the UK, the US, South Asia and Australia. She’s now based in Sydney with Ways Phone.


Subscribe to access this article.

Continue reading your article with an F&P subscription

Join with other top fundraisers to receive insight, analysis and inspiration to help you raise more funds.

subscribe now for $1

Cancel anytime.

Already a subscriber? LOGIN HERE