Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs
You can’t read more than a few paragraphs about fundraising practice without being told that telling stories is the key to success. (my book, for example, has a chapter about this.)
Yes, you’re going to do a lot better if you show donors through stories why they’re needed and what their gifts will do than you will with iron-clad facts and statistics.
But there’s more to it than that. Not every story is equally powerful. That’s what Story Wars is about. And that’s why you should read this book.
It’s a hands-on look at the type of stories that touch people and affect their behavior. Drawing heavily from real life, it both dissects the elements of successful stories and leads you through the process of building your own.
There’s a lot there, but the insight that I think fundraisers need to pay the most attention to is this:
If you are the hero of your own story … you wind up with only a single compelling character — yourself.
We can create far more compelling stories by realizing that our brand is not the hero, our audience members are.
That is a Big Deal. It separates the stories that make a difference from the stories that don’t. And it got me thinking about the three most common story types we use in fundraising:
- Almost never works: The nonprofit as hero. Our dynamic, cutting-edge methodologies and excellent staff are the best! It’s mainly empty bragging, and thus not interesting.
- Sometimes works: The story of a beneficiary in need. Here’s dramatic proof that our work is needed. When it’s a great story, it moves donors to care and to give. The story isn’t always great, though.
- Usually works: The donor as hero. Here’s your chance to make a difference! This is the real story you should always tell. In fact, the two other types of stories only work at all because the donor makes it part of her story for you.
Fundraising really is all about telling stories. But it’s about telling the right story in the right way.
I urge you to read Story Wars to deepen you understanding the power and use of stories.
Available at Amazon.
Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley
One-sentence review: You need to read this book.
If you prefer to base your fundraising on facts and science (as opposed to your own hunches and superstition), this is precisely the book for you. It focuses on practical marketing takeaways from neurological research. There are 100 short chapters, each with a neuroscience finding and how it might be used in marketing.
It’s not specifically a fundraising book — though there are some chapters about raising funds — but almost all the marketing ideas can easily translate to fundraising ideas.
Like this one:
…physical material (like paper) is more “real” to the brain. Since it has a physical place, it engages with the brain’s spatial memory networks.
This probably helps explain the power of direct mail — it hooks more deeply into the brain than non-paper media!
I came away from this book with more than a hundred ideas I can test or just put to work in fundraising. If even a small percentage of these ideas improve results, my clients stand to make the price of the book hundreds of times over in the coming months.
Like any science, neuroscience research is extremely technical; the findings are hard for us non-scientists to understand, much less put to work. Brainfluence bridges the chasm between the research and the marketplace. It’s an easy, quick, enjoyable read, and you’ll get ideas you can use.
Dooley also writes the wonderful Neuromarketing blog, which you should also be reading.