Storytelling has become a cornerstone tactic in most nonprofit fundraising and communications programs because stories have the ability to connect with donors and other audiences in a nuanced and emotional way that pure information can’t always do. Nonprofit storytelling also brings in an element of creativity to fundraising and communications programs. As the storyteller, you get to weave together quotes, information, emotion, and detail to captivate your audience.
There are endless ways to tell a great nonprofit story. By bringing quotes into your nonprofit's stories, you add additional voices and perspectives and (in some cases) valuable social proof for your cause. Read on for your definitive guide to great nonprofit storytelling.
Why nonprofit storytelling is essential
Most organizations have a specific approach to their communications and fundraising. It starts with an organizational voice and messaging as the foundation of an effective brand and ultimately, as the base of effective communication and fundraising. The problem with just relying on your organization's voice to communicate information is that it often lacks an all-important element—emotion.
Yes, emotion! While we can do a lot to cultivate tone and voice, there are some limitations that make your communications and fundraising less relatable for your audience. There is a whole spectrum of emotions nonprofit stories can convey—and not just really sad, heart-wrenching ones. If you need a reminder of the gamut of emotions your stories can convey, reference Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.
While you can absolutely convey emotion through your copy, one of the best ways to capture emotion is through direct quotes. Quotes from a client, quotes from a staff member, and quotes from a donor are always you can bring emotion into your story that will allow your audience to connect directly with another person.
Telling your nonprofit's story through quotes
Integrating well-placed and well-timed quotes in your story can help you accomplish a few important things.
A great quote can provide social proof
Your organization can likely come up with a list of reasons for giving that's a mile long. But sometimes the most compelling reasons for giving come directly from donors. A great giving quote from a donor can enhance an already great appeal and story to provide prospective donors with clear proof as to why other donors give.
A great quote can communicate values or worldviews
When people donate to a cause, their giving allows them to act out their values, beliefs, and worldviews in a way that reflects what matters to them. Stories and quotes allow us to articulate common values and worldviews that donors share.
A great quote can capture attention
It’s an accepted fact at this point that nonprofits are alllllways competing for audience attention. One of my favorite copywriting tips is to start an appeal or communication with a great quote that gets to the heart of the story and gets the audience invested quickly.
4 Types of Quotes to Use in Nonprofit Storytelling
There are many types of quotes you could use in your nonprofit storytelling work. The exact types of quotes you choose to use will depend on your goal for the story, the audience, and the context. These three elements will help you make a strategic decision about the best kind of quote (or quotes) to use.
Quotes from Clients or Beneficiaries of Your Nonprofit’s Mission
One of the most popular types of stories to tell is an impact story. Impact stories directly connect donors to the work that they fund and that can be incredibly powerful in a fundraising appeal. Many impact stories will talk about a specific client or beneficiary of the organization’s work. Using a direct quote (or several) from the client can add depth to the story and ultimately be a more empowering storytelling experience for the client.
A few examples of impact stories with great quotes you may want to check out:
- Back on My Feet does a great job incorporating quotes into this video story.
- SF Marin Food Bank shares some great stories on their blog
Quotes from Nonprofit Staff and Leadership
Quotes from nonprofit staff and leadership can resonate with a certain kind of donor who appreciates authority and leadership. Quotes from frontline nonprofit staff can also resonate well with donors who want to feel connected to their impact. When you get a quote from a nonprofit staff member or leadership member, be mindful of the context that quote will appear in so that it seamlessly fits with your messaging and tone.
Quotes from Nonprofit Donors
We already talked about the importance of social proof from donors in nonprofit stories. Beyond social proof, sharing a donor’s story is a great way to steward a gift and recognize a donor. When you capture giving quotes from nonprofit donors, try to get the following elements:
- Their reason(s) for giving
- What they like or appreciate about your mission or vision
- What they hope others know about giving to your organization
This legacy giving story from the Victoria Hospitals Foundation includes this great quote from the donor: “I said—why don’t we give to our local hospitals through the Victoria Hospitals Foundation?” Lynne says, recalling the decision. “It’s an effective way to make a difference in people’s lives—when they’re at their most vulnerable.”
March of Dimes Canada has a page dedicated to Monthly Donor stories that feature some incredible quotes like this one, "I encourage anyone to become a monthly donor - It is such an easy way to give and I know that even giving a small bit every month adds up to a much bigger gift at the end of the year," says Joan Wilkinson.
Inspirational Quotes for Nonprofit Giving
Beyond direct quotes from people, there are other kinds of quotes you could use to tell your story. These could be inspirational quotes or quotes from influential people. Now, using these kinds of quotes can potentially have a cheesiness factor; the key is picking a quote that reflects the same tone as your copy and the message you want to convey. You’ll also want to make sure the person the quote reflects well on your organization.
Here are a few giving quotes to get your wheels turning:
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” —Helen Keller
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” —Mother Teresa
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” —Winston Churchill
“I don’t think you ever stop giving. I really don’t. I think it’s an on-going process. And it’s not just about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.” —Oprah Winfrey
“Love grows by giving. The love we give away is the only love we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away.” —Elbert Hubbard
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” —Vincent Van Gogh
“Charity begins at home but should not end there.” —Thomas Fuller
“No one has ever become poor from giving.” —Mary Angelou
“Giving to those in need will bring more joy than money could ever buy.” —Dave Ramsey
Where to Use Quotes in Fundraising and Communications Materials
In addition to using quotes in stories, there are many other ways to use quotes to tell your organization’s story. Here are a few ideas and examples to inspire you.
Chances are your organization has a membership newsletter or a donor newsletter. If you have a donor newsletter, content related to impact can inspire donors and connect them to their impact. This newsletter from Union Gospel Mission features a great story about a client, Miranda.
Your organization’s website is a 24/7 employee and digital welcome wagon for people coming to find out information about your cause. These days most websites feature an “Impact” or “Stories” page that visitors can easily navigate to in order to learn more about what your organization does. This example from the Canadian Women’s Foundation showcases numerous stories and uses quotes as a part of the teaser copy.
Video content is some of the most engaging content on the internet. From micro-videos on sites like TikTok or Instagram Stories to longer-form videos on your website or YouTube, there are a lot of opportunities for video storytelling—and each of these videos is a terrific fundraising opportunity. You can find some great examples of fundraising videos on the charity: water YouTube channel, and here are some quick tips for telling stories like charity: water.
Nonprofit annual reports are a natural place for nonprofits to showcase impact and use quotes. By combining a great quote with beautiful design, you can create an annual report that is visually impactful like LA Family Housing.
Social media offers nonprofits endless opportunities for content creation that flex those creative muscles. From short videos to powerful graphics, there are a lot of ways to tell your story through quotes.
Girl Scouts of the USA chooses quotes that focus on women’s empowerment paired with a little branding element to customize it.
Aging Ahead created a graphic for a Facebook post that highlighted one of their beneficiary’s experiences and then expanded on it in the caption.