“The most powerful person in the world is the story teller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” – Steve Jobs

All our touchpoints and communications with donors – from newsletters, case for support documents, acquittal reports, sponsorship or major donor proposals and, of course, grant applications – require us to tell our story in a way that is engaging and will trigger a response. Not-for-profits are in the business of transforming people’s lives and creating lasting positive impact in communities. The story of who you are, why you exist and how you achieve those life-changing outcomes needs to be at the heart of everything you do.

That’s why we run a story-telling activity in our half-day Grant Seeker Workshops. The process starts with a brain dump using post-it notes; this helps to get all your ideas out – the refining comes later. The beauty of this process is that it helps to free your creativity in a way that sitting in front of your computer screen might not. Another advantage is that you can run it as a group activity getting input from different teams in your organisation.


As copy-writer extraordinaire Tom Ahern says on building a case for support:“It is a matter of telling a good story, one that draws readers in and never lets them doubt for a minute that your organization is the greatest and your cause the most worthy. That doesn’t mean you have to exaggerate and embellish, or heaven forbid, lie. No, it means that you must write your Case for Support with heart, soul and passion—you know, that same heart, soul and passion that all of you bring to the work you do every day.”

The key to telling your story well is to balance that very same heart, soul and passion with the facts, statistics and hard data. Can you demonstrate the need and back it up with research? And can you communicate the social outcomes of your project – what will change for the target group, how will they benefit and how are you measuring that? Can you demonstrate the longer-term impact?

If you’re looking for story-telling inspiration tune into to Nancy Duarte’s TEDx Talk where she looks at how stories are hard-wired into our DNA (pre-literate societies used an oral tradition to pass on their history, knowledge and culture from generation to generation) and have the power to connect and create a physical response in the body.

You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again anyway: people give to people not to projects, causes, buildings and arguments. Next time you sit down to write a grant, appeal letter or donor report, think about how you can best tell your story in a way that captures both hearts and minds.

See more information on our Grant Seeker Workshops.