Fundraising stories - samples, examples and tips for success

by Owen Roseblade in October 2nd, 2018

Even if you believe wholeheartedly in the cause of your charity, asking for money is hard. You need to understand what motivates your reader and provoke an emotional reaction. For this reason, telling stories is a major pillar of many charities' fundraising strategy.

If you want to capture the imagination of your audience it pays to learn how to become a good short-story teller. Human beings are wired to connect with well-told stories and countless studies have shown that it is a very effective method of communication.

This post is full of tips and examples to help you write successful fundraising stories. Find out how to write fundraising stories you can use in your next fundraising campaign to convert casual readers into passionate supporters.

Structure your story with a beginning, middle and end

Set the scene

Use the title or introduction of your page to set the scene for your story in one or two powerful sentences. Provide location, context, key figures and hint at the trouble, controversy or challenge that will unfold in the rest of the story. Choose a featured image to accompany your title that supports the copy and carries emotion.

Introduce a protagonist

Your story needs a key figure: either an individual or a group of people, with whom the reader can relate and empathise. You are telling their story, not your own so you should avoid using ‘we’ or ‘our’ at this point. Clear the stage for the protagonist and keep your brand out of the way for now.

Frame the problem

Your cause will no doubt be multifaceted with many interconnected challenges. But for the sake of the story, focus on one problem faced by the protagonist. Introduce this early to keep people’s attention. Keep things simple so the reader can understand and relate to the problem quickly.

Find the point of tension

Be careful to not confuse ‘story’ with a ‘situation’. It’s easy to relay a timeline of events but this alone is unlikely to keep readers attention. Build the middle part of your story to a point where you reveal the full extent of your protagonist’s predicament. You can show that there are ‘X number’ of other people in the same situation that all need support.

Make the reader the hero

Having reached the middle and explored the depth of the challenge faced you can start putting things back together. Ask questions of the reader, help them to discover potential solutions with you as they read on. Show that they can actually make a difference here. Help them to take a stance, engage emotionally and feel good about the idea of helping.

State your mission

To bring your story to a finale you can now offer your answer to the predicament and explain the reason your organisation exists. State your mission as powerfully and concisely as possible, providing all the necessary confidence in your brand that the reader will need to take action. You can mention your organisation but be quick to put the focus back on the reader, ready for them to take action.

Call the reader to action

Ask the reader to respond. Make it relevant, proportional and quickly achievable. Often this comes in the form of a one-off donation or regular giving but there are plenty of other creative ways to ask people to help. Just make sure to keep it simple and clear.

Focus on your key messages

As well as understanding the shape of a good story, your stories should also focus on the key messages of your particular organisation. It is important to deliver your key messages consistently across different mediums and these are typically defined in your overarching communication plan. Read more in our guidance article on creating a charity communication plan.

Example fundraising stories

What follows are three real examples that demonstrate the principles of this article in practice.

Example 1

Adapted from a story told by the small charity Refugee Support Network.


Abdullah's dangerous journey

Abdullah's village had been taken over by the Taliban and his father forced to join the fighting. Abdullah escaped but his life was now in danger.


Abdullah (age 14) was taken to a training camp to join the fighting. He managed to escape and an uncle sold land to facilitate the dangerous journey to safety. He walked over mountains, travelled on precarious boats and hid in the back of lorries.

Abdullah finally arrived in the UK aged 16, exhausted and bewildered. He was put into shared housing with four other boys and started studying English and IT at college.


College was exciting but challenging, and Abdullah struggled to fit in. He often got bad grades because he was embarrassed to admit that he didn’t always understand things because his English was poor.


Earlier this year, Abdullah became increasingly distracted. As he approached his 18th birthday, he had to apply for an extension of his Discretionary Leave to Remain. Detention and forced removal to Afghanistan became real possibilities and Abdullah was struggling to cope with the stress. Abdullah was close to dropping out of college and the staff there referred him to RSN to receive a volunteer mentor.


Abdullah now meets regularly with Tim, an accountant working in London who volunteers his time once a week. They focus on his education and Tim takes time to listen and provide emotional support. Abdullah's future is still uncertain but the support from RSN makes all the difference to his daily life.


Whether or not asylum-seeking young people receive indefinite leave to remain, we exist to provide support alongside their education to learn and thrive.


Dozens of professionals volunteer their time across the city. Could you provide mentoring support for one more young person?

> Become a mentor

Example 2

Adapted from an emergency appeal by Save the Children.


The Yemen crisis is putting millions of children at risk

The war has been raging for three years now which has left the country in the grip of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.


Amina (age 9) lost her parents during a bomb explosion on the outskirts of her hometown. Hungry and alone, she’s now at greater risk of famine and disease.


Hunger is quickly becoming the biggest problem faced by over 5 million women and children. Roadblocks and border control are preventing the transport of essential supplies to the smaller towns and villages.


Renewed fighting in Hodeidah, the countries gateway for commercial and humanitarian supplies, is putting Amina and other families at greater risk. An attack on the port would have a devastating effect on a country already in crisis.


Hunger cannot be used as a weapon of war. Children should not be made to suffer for political purposes. Join our appeal to help protect Amina and other families in Yemen to make it through this crisis alive.


We are working tirelessly find solutions to make sure children in Yemen get protection, survive, and go on to learn and thrive. We have routes into the country that can avoid the most dangerous zones. There's a way you can help.


Help bring a stop to the fighting, and the hunger. Make a donation now to help us deliver vital food and medicine directly to those who need it most.

> Donate now

Example 3

Adapted from a story told by Autism Wessex.


Max is one of 2.8 million people affected by Autism in the UK

Max didn’t say his first word until he was 3, when he said ‘bear’. It was such an amazing moment, I had waited so long to hear his little voice.  


Until Max’s fifth Christmas in 2017, he couldn’t tell his parents what he wanted from Santa. He couldn’t speak. His parents waited over 3 years to hear his voice. They had never been able to ask him what he wanted for tea, let alone Christmas. 


Max had just turned three when he was diagnosed with autism but his parents knew something was wrong at around 18 months. Max had no words, and so his communication became very physical. Max would become very agitated, frustrated and had lots of meltdowns.


Max would his head against the hard floor. His Mum had to lie with him and physically restrain him so he couldn’t harm himself too badly. Max's parents knew they had to get their son a specialist school placement as mainstream education was not meeting his needs.


Thanks to an early diagnosis and the success Max has had at specialist autism school, Portfield, Max is now able to speak. His conversation isn’t yet fluent, but the progress has dramatically reduced his negative behaviours, often born from frustration. It's easy to take our ability to communicate for granted. It takes time and expertise to coach young children through the frustrations of not being able to do so.


Thankfully, Max’ story is a positive one but there is no cure for autism. The strategies Max learns in his childhood will help him navigate the rest of his life. With it's connection to Portfield School, Autism Wessex is uniquely placed to provide the care and support children with autism need to thrive.


Please be a part of Christmas giving this year by supporting Autism Wessex to help extraordinary families like Max’.

> Donate now

Free story template

Use our free template to start putting this post into practice with your own charity.

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