The Art of Storytelling: Campaign Communications That Drive Success

Fundraising does not work without good storytelling.

Once again, fundraising does not work without good storytelling. Especially in a capital campaign, the storytelling is what brings donors to the why - why they should give, why they should care about your institution, why their support would have an impact on the world. 

This week, Tonya and I had the opportunity to travel to Winston-Salem State University to give a presentation on The Art of Storytelling to fundraisers and development communications teams from across the UNC system. When creating a campaign communications strategy, there a three common challenges to keep in mind:

  • Not everyone is Shakespeare. The best fundraisers and campus leaders aren't necessarily going to be the best writers, but since their work puts them in the field with donors or out on campus with students, they have the most opportunities to discover new stories first hand. Cross-campus collaboration between communications staff, development teams and faculty is essential for developing campaign stories.
  • Brand dilution: With so many diverse units on campus, presenting a unified institutional identity can be difficult with so many people trying to tell the same story under the same umbrella. A strong campaign theme will allow units the flexibility to tell their unique story under a unifying umbrella that stays true to the integral university brand and mission.
  • Being broad without being generic: Since the theme has to work for every unit on campus, and appeal to donors, alumni, parents, friends, faculty and students, it can be tempting to pick a theme that is generic enough that it safely works for all aspects of the campaign. Unfortunately, this approach makes storytelling more difficult in the long run, because there is no direction for identifying stories. 

With these challenges in mind, storytellers can begin plan for a campaign communications strategy that will serve as a tool for both communicators and fundraisers to achieve campaign goals.