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Improve Fundraising with Success Stories

Thursday, December 28, 2017  

Animal shelters are great at sharing success stories. You should be, too.


By Abigail Jarvis, Director of Content, Qgiv

You know what animal shelters do really well? They are great at sharing success stories for animal shelter fundraising. Look up your community shelter on Facebook; I can almost promise you’ll see pictures of adopted dogs, before/after pictures of rehabilitated animals, and lots of thank-you messages to donors and volunteers. There’s a reason for that.

Donors love success stories

Donors love success stories, and animal shelters are really good at sharing them. The rest of the nonprofit industry, however, should focus on telling them more frequently.

When you’re a fundraiser, it’s easy to fall back on showing donors the problems you’re solving… and ONLY the problems you’re solving. If you can establish that there’s a desperate need your donors can meet, that will compel them to give. Right?

Well, yes… and no. 

Success Stories Prevent Donor Fatigue

Donors certainly need to be informed about problems in the world before they can be inspired to solve it. Asks that appeal to donors’ emotions by tugging at their heartstrings are certainly effective. But only showing donors desperate situations can make them emotionally exhausted. It can also make them question your nonprofit’s effectiveness.

Think about it. 

You’re browsing Facebook and you see a post of a sickly dog. He looks terrible. His fur is scant. You can see his ribs. His facial expression makes you want to cry. The shelter that found him is asking for money to cover his medical bills. So you give… and that’s the last you ever hear of the dog.

Two days later, you see the same shelter post a picture of a pitiful-looking kitten. Then it’s another dog in bad shape. You start to wonder: “Is my money actually accomplishing anything?”

Use Success Stories to Inspire Donors

Your donors’ money is accomplishing things. You need to show them! Donors won’t continue to support you if they’re either uncertain how you’re using their money or if they feel emotionally exhausted by the stories you tell.

This is why animal shelters are killing it with the success stories they share. When they post an appeal asking for donations to treat a sick dog, they’re careful to share updates about the dog’s recovery. Their donors know that the shelter used their money well and that their donation made a difference. That’s powerful!

Combine Success Stories and Emotional Appeals to Create Powerful Campaigns

Professional fundraiser Rory Green phrased it beautifully when she said, “emotional triggers are even more powerful when they are contrasted and paired together. Like a good mixed drink, emotions are strongest when you combine different ones together.”

You shouldn’t limit yourself only to sharing emotionally-driven appeals that tug at your donors’ heartstrings. You also shouldn’t limit yourself only to sharing happy success stories that give your donors warm fuzzies. One will emotionally exhaust your donors. The other will lull them into a sense of complacency.  Both of them together show your donors that a problem exists in the world and that they have the power to fix it.

Animal shelters are great at sharing their needs and their successes, their problems and their solutions, their sad stories and their happy endings. It keeps donors engaged and inspired – and it will do the same for your donors, too. Sharing both your needs and your victories is an important part of establishing the kind of authentic relationship you – and your donors – want to build.


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