4 Ways to Leverage Storytelling for Crowdfunding Engagement

July 19, 2022

From crowdfunding for humanitarian aid across the world to classroom supplies at your local school, your cause is worthy of support.

But simply setting up a crowdfunding campaign usually isn’t enough to garner heaps of support. According to statistics from Fundly, over 6 million crowdfunding campaigns were hosted in 2020 but on average, only 22.4% of campaigns reach their fundraising goals.

So what makes those campaigns stand out? The answer is surprisingly simple: A compelling, well-told story that appeals to the audience’s emotions and can be widely shared. 

In your crowdfunding campaign’s marketing strategy, storytelling can be the difference between successful or unsuccessful results. When you’re able to do more than simply tell your audience what you’re fundraising for, you’re better equipped to create personal connections with each and every donor. 

While there are many ways to tell a story, in this article we’ll focus on four necessary steps for crafting a successful storytelling strategy for your next crowdfunding campaign: 

  1. Consider your audience.
  2. Evoke emotion.
  3. Remember your brand. 
  4. Make engagement easy.

Your organization should be making storytelling a priority in all of your crowdfunding campaigns. But you don’t need to carry the weight of this project alone.

As you develop your strategy and the story you’ll tell, rely on your team—particularly those working in the field—to help brainstorm and develop a creative, impactful narrative. Creating a mind map or using another visual method of discussing ideas can help your team come up with unique ways to present and share your story. Keep in mind that because you’ll likely be addressing a diverse audience, your team will be essential in bringing different perspectives in order to ensure that you’re catering to all your target demographics. Let’s dive in! 

1. Consider your audience.

Even before you think about what story to tell, you’ll want to consider who you’re addressing. Knowing the specifics of your audience will help you tailor your message to have the greatest impact.

Likely, your audience will be a combination of existing and potential supporters, and you’ll want to tailor your story to each group. Using data analytics, you can create ideal personas/profiles based on various characters, such as:

  • Location
  • Career
  • Event history
  • Demographics
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Donation history

Generally, the challenge with fundraising is not in getting the support of people who already care about your cause but in converting new people into supporters. By placing your target audiences into specific groups, you can tailor your story and the way it’s told to those groups. In fact, you may find that you need to use different stories for different groups. For instance, in telling a story to someone unacquainted with your cause, you’d want to offer additional background as context. Successfully creating a personal connection allows you to engage people who may be less invested in your cause. 

Considering your audience is also an important step when making final decisions about where and how to share your story. Depending on your target donors, there may be a particular social platform, such as Facebook or TikTok, that is the best for advertising your crowdfunding campaign. Moreover, if you are sharing your story on multiple social platforms, thinking about the audience that is most active on each one will help you make the necessary tweaks to ensure it’s engaging for those specific audiences.  

2. Evoke emotion.

If you’ve run a more traditional fundraising campaign, you’ve likely sent donation request letters where you engaged in storytelling without even realizing it. You can think of your crowdfunding campaign story as another form of a donation request letter. A well-crafted story will focus on a main message or goal, describe the impact that your donors can make, and highlight strong emotions in both.

Developing a personal, emotional connection is particularly important for engaging supporters who are unfamiliar with your organization or cause. Moreover, because there are not typically benefits like public recognition for smaller gifts, the main motivation for people donating to crowdfunding campaigns is usually an emotional or personal connection.

To make your campaign feel more personal to both your new and existing supporters and bring out their empathy, your story should include:

  1. An arc with a beginning, middle, and end. 
  2. A compelling character that people will want to root for.
  3. A conflict or problem that can be solved with concrete steps.
  4. A call to action that invites supporters to be a part of the solution.

Have different people within your organization read through your story. Ask them how it makes them feel, what it makes them think of, and what, if anything, didn’t make sense or was alienating. If your story is not evoking the emotions you want, spend some more time developing it into a story that stops your audience in their tracks. 

3. Remember your brand.

Even though your story will be specific to your crowdfunding campaign, there are ways to make sure that it also fits into and amplifies your brand. Storytelling gives your organization the opportunity to connect your current fundraiser to the bigger umbrella of your brand. In fact, storytelling will strengthen your brand, and help your supporters better understand it and stay connected with your organization long past the specific fundraiser ends.

To emphasize your brand and the kind of work you do, take this opportunity to highlight past success with similar campaigns and the impact they had. Try recapping some of these stories and how real people were impacted on your social media or in a newsletter. 

As you design your crowdfunding landing page, customize it with your organization’s colors and logo. For existing supporters this creates trust that their donation is going to the right place. For new supporters, it can create a sense of continuity with your website and social media.

4. Make engagement easy.

Ultimately, if you tell your story well, your audience will want to take an active role in its arc: sharing, volunteering for, and donating to your cause. By making engagement as easy as possible, you give your audience a concrete way to feel invested in your cause:

  • Plan for multi-channel engagement. The description on your crowdfunding page is not the only place that people should see the story you’re sharing. Depending on where your audiences are most active, you want to be using digital tools to share it on social media and via email newsletters.
  • Ask people to share their stories too. If you have crafted a successful story for your fundraiser, your donors likely connected in a personal way to the story. This creates a great opportunity to ask others to share their own related stories. Their stories could be about them or about people in their lives who were impacted by your organization or have participated in a fundraiser in the past. You can reshare these and tie them in with the current story you’re sharing to foster an even more personal component to your fundraiser. To generate the most engagement from your story, consider hiring a marketing firm with expertise in social fundraising to help. 

According to Fundly’s statistics, campaigns that are shared fewer than 2 times have a 97% chance of failure! Since sharing is so important to the success of a crowdfunding campaign, you need a platform that has social sharing features that make engagement as easy as the click of a button. Use Fundly's guide to crowdfunding platforms to research and compare the leading crowdfunding solutions and their social sharing tools.

Support Your Story With the Right Platform

When launching your crowdfunding campaign, you might initially think of a well-known platform like GoFundMe. But there are lots of alternative platforms that may better suit your needs for leveraging a positive, story-focused campaign. In addition to a platform with robust sharing capabilities, choose a solution that is:

  • Customizable. Effective customization options will support your storytelling efforts from the first moment potential donors see your campaign to the time they submit their gift. 
  • Affordable. Telling your story shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Every crowdfunding host has its own platform and payment processing fees. Always pay attention to rules, practices, and fees.
  • Easy to use. Don’t let a confusing crowdfunding platform be the reason someone chooses not to give. Select a platform that allows you to share and update your story with video, audio, and images in addition to text.

Put your crowdfunding campaign in the best position for success. By following these storytelling strategies and using a powerful platform in your campaign, you can help people see why your cause deserves their support.