Compelling storytelling

Telling a Story

We can all spot a great story when we read it, and we know when we're moved enough to take action. But what is it about a story that compels us?

We looked at a short bit of fundraising storytelling (in italics) that left us with those feelings, and broke down the key elements.

Ngan's parents were poor rice farmers, struggling to survive. When they saw her cleft lip and cleft palate for the first time, they thought she'd been cursed. Neighbors pitied her. Other children were afraid to look at her.
Without wasted time, the story begins with a sharp introduction that gets you involved, with a clear example to create a visual in your mind.

Generous friends like you enabled us to give Ngan the surgery she needed--and save her from shame and rejection. She now has a terrific smile and a bright future ahead. Such a transformation seems miraculous! But we cannot rest.
The short sentences help develop a sense of urgency in the reader's mind.

We want to go to more places and help more children. We want to continue to train local doctors and nurses to carry on the work, and establish more care centers in our partner countries, so surgeries can continue year-round.
With pronouns like "we" repeated, the story becomes personal and makes the reader feel directly involved.

We have medical teams who volunteer their time standing by. Now we need your help. Any gift amount will help give a little one like Ngan a new smile and a new life. And for as little as $240, you can help pay for a surgery for a child who's waiting now. That's one life changed, entirely because of you.
States the goal in human and visual terms, making it very relatable, while refering directly to the reader, who feels like they are now a part of the story.

Thank you in advance for helping us work toward changing the lives of children one smile at a time.
Reinforcing the message of the story while showing appreciation to further involve the reader.

All this in 197 words. Imagine a photo or two, the logo identifying the sponsoring organization, and an action-oriented response device, and you can probably start to picture the results. A great story doesn't have to be long or detailed, but using some of the tactics seen here will go along way to making it effective.

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