Seeing Yourself in the Story

June 15, 2017



Written By: jon

By Jon Simons and Lora Dow

This summer, the Donor By Design Team is considering new ways grow the relationship with our donors… moving beyond the thank you note to a deeper connection. Today’s topic: how do you help a donor see themselves in the story? 


“You won’t truly connect with someone until you see yourself in their story.”  This advice, first read in a book years ago, has stuck with us, especially in our work with nonprofits, churches, schools and other charitable organizations.

Relationships and authentic connection have great power in fundraising or in any facet of life. Time and time again, we see a well-told story nestle itself in the heart of a donor. People do not give money because they have money, they give money because they care about something. And stories help nurture and grow that care and commitment. 

The gateway to caring is connection. If we develop and ask thoughtful questions and take the time to really listen to the answers we can begin to understand what people believe, value and care about. How do you do that?

  • Just ask. Get together for coffee or lunch with no other agenda than to find out more about a person and how they got to where they are today.
  • “Have you or someone you love ever been in a situation like that?” It’s easy to assume that a wealthy donor has led a charmed life and has no problems, but of course that isn’t true. Chance are they or someone they care about has had real struggles – even one that your organization addresses. Ask the question, and let them draw a closer, personal connection to your cause.
  • “How might our cause fit into your philanthropic efforts?” Can they see your organization in their story? The answer may be more or less than you’d hoped, but the insight you’ll gain as to the priorities and intentions of the donors will be incredibly valuable.

If we can help prospective donors to see themselves in people we serve we can inspire them to embrace our cause and support our mission. And for your inspiration, we have two videos, from two very different organizations, that do a great job of doing just that:

University Place Presbyterian Church
Video credit: Michael Rabb, AM Studios and the team at UPPC

YMCA of Greater Birmingham
Video credit: Frank Ozment, Liesa Cole, Stan Bedingfield, John Gaiser, Rich Albright


What about you? Do you have a great example of seeing yourself in the story that you want to share?


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2 responses to “Seeing Yourself in the Story”

  1. John Alexander says:

    Fine posting and great videos. Thanks for the “stories.”