When you stop and think about it, you’ll realize that we all tell stories throughout our day. To our kids and spouses. To our co-workers and bosses. To our friends and family. Stories are the tool we rely on to inform, educate, entertain, connect and persuade the people around us. But, have you ever thought about what you want your stories to ACCOMPLISH? How do you know if your story has been a good one – or just mediocre? Stick with me for a few minutes and you’ll know.
Let’s start with you imagining yourself at a movie theatre. The movie is halfway through, and you start glancing at your watch. As you do that, you’re wondering if the dog is okay alone at home, if the kids are doing their homework or where you and your spouse will go for dinner after the movie. When you’re looking at your watch during a movie, you’re DETACHED from the film. Sure, you’re watching it and following the story. But you’re still in a movie theatre seat watching a movie and thinking about other things.
Imagine that it’s a month later and you’re at the movie theatre again. But, this time it’s different…
This time, you’re not looking at your watch thinking about anything other than the story unfolding in front of you. You reach a really moving part of the movie and you start to cry (like I do in the Lord of the Rings movie where Samwise Gamgee won’t let Frodo go into the dangers of Mordor alone.) You’ve become totally ENGAGED with the story.
Now, let’s stop and think about crying at movies.
When a movie makes us cry, we’re no longer just audience members sitting in seats in a movie theatre. When we cry, something very important has happened. We’ve transformed from being audience members to being a character in the movie. We feel what the character feels. We’re living the character’s experience.
When we cross that bridge from DETACHMENT to ENGAGEMENT, we’ve entered a state of suspended disbelief (that’s the name literary types call it). Suspended disbelief goes like this: You start out watching a movie or reading a novel or listening to a bedtime story. As the story begins, you’re fully aware that you’re yourself and that you’re reading/watching/listening to a story that someone is telling you. You know that it’s just a story. But, when you suspend your disbelief, something happens. You no longer are experiencing the story as just a story. You are now INSIDE the story. You’ve become one of the characters. And, you’re feeling everything that character is feeling.
This, my fellow storytellers, is what we want to achieve when we tell our stories. We want our audiences to let go of their reality and enter your story. We want them to forget everything else and just experience the events and the emotions of one of the story characters.
When you can get your donors or prospects to suspend their disbelief, your chances of getting the gift get much bigger. Once your audience crosses that bridge, they’re yours. When you tell great stories, you become a great fundraiser.
It’s as simple as that.
Fraser Green is a Principal at Good Works, one of Canada’s leading fundraising consulting agencies. At Good Works, Fraser’s focus is on legacy gift marketing strategy, donor research and, well, storytelling! Fraser is the co-author of “Iceberg Philanthropy” and “You Can’t Take It With You – The Art and Science of Legacy Fundraising” and the author of “3D Philanthropy.” firstname.lastname@example.org