Direct Mail


Yesterday, I was working at my new client’s office and was on a phone call with Miss Jenny Magic of Better Way to Say It. We were discussing “heart string” stories and gathering pictures and stories from the people that Alzheimer’s Association has served to use in direct mail appeals, on the website and other venues.


When writing these stories, we assume that we need to tell the heart-wrenching story about the child whose is starving in Africa along with a picture of this child with an distended stomach.

While this image and story can grab our hearts as a donor, it can also turn folks off. One of my students in UCSD Extension Fundraising Certificate program commented that:

“The best direct mail that I have received was from Best Friends Animal Society.  I very much appreciated the fact that their donation letters include positive stories, rather than photos of abused animals in deplorable situations.  On the flip side, I have received mailings from organizations that inundate you while photos of gaunt, visibly neglected animals/children, which do catch my attention, but it does so in the worst way.”


Jenny brought up a very important point about storytelling: Often the story is not about the actual person served, but the people involved with the organization.


I am sure most of you heard about the tragic and incredible story of Rachel, a 9-year-old who started her own birthday campaign to raise $300 for charity: water because (in her words): “millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before.”


Three months later, Rachel died in a tragic car accident before she was able to make her $300 birthday fundraising goal. In honor of her efforts and memory, charity: water continued the campaign on their website and have raised over $1.2 million to-date. The story was not about the people served through charity: water, it was about Rachel and her passion to raise money to help people gain access to clean drinking water.


So, as you are gathering the personal stories of the good work your nonprofit is doing, consider telling the story from the perspective of a Board member, a volunteer, a donor or an individual fundraising on your organization’s behalf.

2 thoughts on “Storytelling”

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