Five Storytelling Elements to Amplify Your Nonprofit's Text-to-Give Strategy

March 19, 2019
6 minutes

Since texting is almost as second nature as breathing these days, it's only natural that nonprofit organizations move towards a Text Engagement strategy to directly connect to new donors and retain existing ones. According to Twilio, SMS messages have a 95% open rate. Yep, you read that right. And with incredible stats like that, it's a no-brainer to incorporate text engagement into your nonprofit fundraising strategy. But how should you go about that exactly?

As a savvy nonprofiteer, you already know that you need to tell impactful stories through your website, events, emails, direct mail, social media, and your shoes (just kidding, we wanted to see if you were still with us). All jokes aside, text engagement is the new fundraising frontier—figuring out how to tell your nonprofit's story in 160 characters or less is the key to the promised land of donations.

We thought it would be fun to share how you can use five basic elements of a story (plot, setting, character, theme, and conflict) taken straight from your high school English class to build an enticing text engagement strategy.


Every story worth telling has a good plot, which is really just the sequence of events that make up the beginning, middle, and end of your story. If you've been in the business of changing the world for some time, you probably have a few impactful case studies that highlight the impressive transformation of the people, places or things you've helped. Time to put those to good use.

Pro-Tip: Create a mobile donation page and pick one of your most compelling success stories (you know, the one that pulls at the heartstrings). Send a short teaser to your supporters with a link to the site. The text can say something like:

"Nina, it's Madge from Homes for All. Thanks to supporters like you, Ingrid escaped homelessness. See how far a $10 donation can go."

When your supporter clinks the link, they'll be taken to a mobile donation page that features a prominent donate button. They'll read a more detailed version of Ingrid's story, telling how homelessness affected her life before your organization intervened, how your organization helped her, what she's doing now, and her plans for the future.

Bonus Tip: Try out this strategy before a fundraising event to build excitement and create a deeper connection to your mission by reminding attendees of the impact that your work has.


Set the scene to tell your nonprofit's story with maximum sensory inputs, mentally teleporting your supporters to a specific place and time to create a deeper connection.

Pro-Tip: For an upcoming fundraising campaign with a specific goal in place, send a personalized text to your supporters that tells the story of what someone's life will look like when your organization meets their goal. This could look something like:

"Sandra, Free the Forest is close to planting 1000 trees. Decimated Yucatan forests transform into lush green landscapes with yr help. Check it out"

The link takes donors to a mobile donation page showing a video of the forest's devastation, a conceptual video of what the forest would look like if your nonprofit met its goal, or a person whose life has been affected by deforestation. The sky's the limit!


Telling a story is pretty difficult without a star subject or character. This could be one specific refugee your organization helped achieve freedom, an abused dog who's found a new home, the recipient of a new computer who can now do their homework peacefully, or even a historic building with cultural significance that's in danger of getting torn down.

Pro-Tip: Focus on what needs help and paint a picture of how a donation could turn the tides. It could be something like:

"Damon, Fire Relief here. The Migos Fire has devastated a community. Laura Smith, a nurse, lost all her belongings. Want to help? Donate Now:"

Telling personal stories is extremely powerful in an emergency response situation. Using Funraise's Text Engagement tools during a crisis can increase the number of donations you get compared to using emails. Try it out!


Themes can be considered the overall message your nonprofit wants to convey. When incorporating a theme into your fundraising strategy, the first place to look is your organization's vision. Your vision, separate from your mission, is essentially what your dream world would look like if you achieved your mission. Your vision should create powerful imagery and storytelling opportunities.

Pro-Tip: If you want to take a different approach to storytelling, get people to donate to your overall vision, which is most impactful in year-round or year-end fundraising efforts and not tied to a specific program or event. An example of this would be:

"Luis, imagine a world where every child has access to quality education no matter where they live. That's EduChild's vision & you can help:"

Link to a mobile donation page with photos of all the children who've been afforded quality education, stats with how many people your org has helped, or a video of children saying thank you and sharing with your supporters what they want to be when they grow up. Remind donors of the gratification of contributing to a larger vision and how doing something bigger can be super impactful.


Conflict and tension in a story are what keeps you captivated. Imagine watching a movie where everything's just peachy—no villains, no overbearing in-laws, no chance of your secret identity being exposed. Snore. As a nonprofit, though, your biggest conflict is not having enough funds to fulfill your mission, and it's always a dire situation.

Pro-Tip: Text your donors a specific ask to help you reach a fundraising goal and make it urgent; this can be a real or manufactured deadline. For example, #GivingTuesday is a popular event. Although it's not focused on conflict, per se, the urgency is created by dedicating a specific day for your supporters to donate.

Got a program that needs to be funded? Create a fundraising page with a goal and a deadline. As the deadline approaches, text your donors to tell them how close you are to your goal and how a small donation of [insert dollar amount here] will move you closer. It's a tried-and-true tactic that gets people to press that donate button with a quickness. Here's an example:

"Marge, Alpacas for Pastors is close to reaching its goal to help rural pastors get their own emotional support alpaca. Please help. Donate now:"

Text engagement is here to stay, so the sooner your nonprofit gets on board, the closer you'll be to reaching your fundraising goals. With so many ways to tell your story, you'll be raking in the donations in no time.

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