"Tell us a story!" The secret to great funding applications

This week I was talking to the General Manager of a local theatre about a recent show her venue had hosted – a one-woman performance of ‘I Believe in Unicorns’ by Michael Morpurgo.  I’d taken the kids to see it, and we were both moved by the power of story-telling and the impact the show had on the audience. We both got goose-bumps just speaking about the show (go and see it if you can, its magical for kids and for adults)!

The power of stories to bring real (and sometimes sad, hard or scary) situations to life, and to entrance your audience inside a narrative is amazing, and something I know the arts organisations I have worked with totally understand.

Using stories in fundraising

So why don’t we use it more? Couldn’t, or rather, shouldn’t we use it in our fundraising activities?

When I talk to people about what makes a great funding application, I urge them to think about their fundraising as telling a story – make sure it flows, ensure the narrative is logical, and most importantly take people on a journey. 

Setting the scene

Just as a great story will set the scene, giving you vital information about the location, characters and the situation they find themselves in, a great funding application will set out the context for your application – why is this important? What is the issue you are looking to address?

Telling the story

That same story, having drawn you in, will take you on a tour of the world the story-teller has created, setting out the main events in a way that tells you what you need to know but doesn’t leave too much to guess work, and most importantly, makes you want to find out more.  Likewise, telling your potential funder setting out what you are going to do in the context of the climate you have outlined, means they can follow you projects logic,  understand your activities, and of course, want to see the result.

The finale

And just as a fantastic story leads to you to a climatic conclusion, your funding proposal will tell the reader the difference you are going to make as a result of your activities – the changes you will see, the impact your project will have on the needs you have identified.  The tale is told, and it all makes sense. 

A strong narrative that draws your reader into your funding application helps them to see what’s important about your project, and hopefully, to get just a few goosebumps. 

I, for one, think that can only be a positive thing.

Leah Selinger is the founder and Director of Selinger Consultants, which offers a range of consultancy, training or fundraising support to make your charity, voluntary organisation or social enterprise more financially and operationally sustainable.