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Stories put the fun into grant fundraising

2 June 2015

Applying for grant or trust funding is often a far from exciting process. But pity the poor funders too: imagine what a dry read all those forms must make.

Including stories about your work can bring an application to life. Figures are obviously important, as is information about what your organisation does, but telling a story will inject humanity and passion.

The word ‘stories’ can make you immediately think of ‘once upon a time’ and something you’d read to your child at bedtime. They may not seem a good fit with a weighty grant application. However, if you think about it we all tell stories every day. They have a beginning, a middle and an end, key characters and an outcome – they’re worth telling because something happened.

Stories paint a picture

Putting your work into this format paints a clear picture for funders. It allows them to more easily visualise what you do and the impact you have. And it helps to get rid of the jargon your sector might often use, making your message clearer and more engaging.

Storytelling can also turn a negative or inactive situation into a positive and active one. For example, Charity A helps people who are largely housebound because of their disability. They offer short sessions each week that provide company, help with activities and also support the person’s family.

Turn that into a story with characters and see the difference it makes.

Bob loves golf but now he finds it difficult to negotiate the course. He doesn’t have the confidence to face people he knows at the club. But with his support worker alongside him on the green, he enjoys nine holes every Tuesday and a drink in the clubhouse with his old friends. It also gives his wife, Sue, three hours to herself.


Using stories is beneficial in a number of ways. As well as bringing your work to life, they also support the overall narrative of your organisation. They embody your vision and your aims so they reinforce the key information you’ve included elsewhere.

Stories show the impact of your work

Stories are also vital in wider fundraising among supporters and the community. Again, they need to show the impact of your work – why it’s important and what changes it creates. You have the opportunity to use images, video, audio, animation and social media to get those messages across so be creative.

Smile Train has wonderful examples of telling stories with amazingly powerful images and almost no text. They clearly show the life-changing effects the charity's work has for children, adults and their families; they are inspiring, full of hope and the joy that’s resulted from the organisation’s support.

Stories engage your audience

It’s well known that people tend to support a cause they have personal experience of, or they donate to a friend who is fundraising. In a crowded market place, you need your organisation’s voice to be the most powerful in order to draw fundraisers to you rather than your competitors, and then to encourage donations. And it’s important to keep telling those stories, update them and continue the narrative so supporters are engaged and have a reason to stay with you.

Lisa Pettifer

consultant, Amazon PR

Lisa has for several years been a part of the Amazon PR team, working on projects for SSAFA, RAF Benevolent Fund, Dulcolax & Beating Bowel Cancer, Cats Protection and Jack Petchey Foundation. A former broadcast journalist for the BBC, Lisa also has experience in-house, dealing with case studies, media relations, marketing materials and social media planning.