Do Your Nonprofit Stories Have These 3 Essential Elements?

Your stories need a hook, hold and payoff.

What makes someone donate to your cause? Is it the design of your landing page? Is it your email messages? Your mobile-friendly fundraising software?

Yes, these are all important. But the most powerful tool you have is your nonprofit storytelling. Stories move people to act way more than the color of your “donate" button ever will.

Nonprofit storytelling helped the Ellie Fund win a national giving day competition, and helped a local Habitat for Humanity raise over $215 in 24 hours.

Most professional fundraising will agree that storytelling is usually the most important factor that determines the success or failure of a fundraising campaign.

What if your stories are boring?

Yes, good stories are important. But what if your stories don’t move anyone? What can you do to breathe life into your existing stories?

To start with, make sure your most important stories follow hook and The Payoff. Before you read any further, watch this short video (it’s only 23 seconds). It contains a hook, a hold, and a payoff.

Go ahead and watch it, and when you’re done, come back here.

The Hook

If a story doesn’t hook in the first few seconds, it won’t move people to take action. To motivate people and put them in motion, you have to trigger an emotion. You and I both know this, and so does science.

In the video (I hope you watched it), the hook is the boy and his dad playing in the snow. As you watched, you may have felt the excitement, anticipation, and fatherly love that plays out in the video. Maybe it brought up memories you had as a child, or experiences you’ve had as a parent. Either way, you got hooked.

The Hold

Great stories hold our attention after we’re hooked. We continue to pay attention as long as there are unanswered questions about the progression of the story. Good stories make people ask: What will happen next?

Will the boy fall off the sled? Will he hit the jump at the right angle? Will dad drop the camera as he sleds down the hill, tracking his son?

Great stories keep people engaged until these questions (plot points) are answered.

The Payoff

The payoff is the resolution to the story. It’s so essential to great stories, that without a payoff, you really don’t have a story at all. You can’t have “once upon a time” without a “happily ever after”.

What’s the payoff in the sledding video? A successful jump, and shouts of victory, of course!

What’s the hook, hold and payoff in your stories?