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If you’d like to start at the beginning, my recent article The Value of Building a ‘Story Marketplace’: Chapter 1 presented a new paradigm for the role of storytelling in modern fundraising that I build upon here. 

Since 2015, when the University of Chicago first used what we had created as our “giving day” functionality to launch a 30-day young alumni challenge, we’ve been inspired to advocate for the concept of creating and curating more content. 

We’ve also realized crowdfunding, giving days, and custom giving events like that challenge are just different tactics to tell stories. 

Showcasing more stories, through more giving initiatives, targeted to more segmented audiences, has yielded tremendous success across our client base. You can see this in their aggregated results — the amazing outcome of having a storytelling focus.

First, let’s take a look at the increase of fundraising stories and initiatives among our clients starting in 2015:

Then, the corresponding growth of gifts and online funding:

You can see something interesting happened in 2016: the first major and leadership gifts began popping up directly correlated to our clients’ efforts. 

One of the first examples was an institution that shared an online campaign which inspired a net new donor to give. This donor was inspired to write a $1M check to the institution to support that effort. 

The trend continued. And we had an “ah-ha” moment.

We realized that the power of online storytelling is the fact that this channel can resonate with the entire spectrum of wealth. 

Search and peer-to-peer platforms are social equalizers. A story shared through social or found on Google can be consumed by a low-income student or a multi-millionaire. 

Anyone can be inspired by content shared online and, most importantly, online mediums amplify networks to engage people an institution could never reach alone. 

Around this same time, we began recommending the value of using our “bulk offline gift uploader” to truly represent all gifts that were made to a giving event or campaign, whether they came through the platform or not.

This galvanized our client efforts under what we now call a “digital-first, not digital-only” approach. We encouraged our clients to use Community Funded not just as a fundraising tool to compel online engagement, but also as a marketing tool to give their communities a central hub to view their collective impact.

Digital became the “primary channel,” but certainly not the only channel.

Our clients began to adopt this approach in 2017 and the results have been incredible. First, let’s look at the leap in total funding represented on our platform from 2016 to 2017:

Then, in 2018, you can see a 12X growth in total funding represented:

Leadership and major gifts became more of an expected result than simply a delightful surprise. 

In 2019, we are already set to significantly surpass these numbers just by demonstrating that this approach and the best practices we encourage are in fact working.

With an increase in decentralized storytelling, or, said differently, by empowering more people to tell authentic stories, we have also seen another tremendous qualitative result.

For years, I have heard the expression “Culture of Philanthropy.” I wrote an article in 2017 called Building a Culture of Philanthropy: The 5 Pillars because, even though I heard the expression, it seemed like nobody had achieved it or knew where to begin. 

Recently though, we had a client tell us they were actually experiencing a stronger culture of philanthropy with this approach.

Howard Heevner from UC Santa Cruz said, “It’s a lot of work, but the value of Giving Day is much greater than the dollars these donors give — it’s the new donors we meet, it’s the volunteers who are out fundraising on our behalf, it’s the dozens of celebrations across campus on Giving Day promoting philanthropy. On this one day, there are thousands of people participating in creating a stronger culture of philanthropy by telling their story.”

By taking an approach of inclusion, you invite your community to feel a part of something greater. 

You empower those change-makers, those doers, those innovators, those activists, those volunteers — your community — to feel like they are a valuable part of the whole. 

Rather than siloing the massively important responsibility of fundraising, you invite everyone to participate through storytelling and supporting, evangelizing, and endorsing the powerful stories that make you, well… you. 

In my opinion, we have only scratched the surface of the results of leveraging a Story Marketplace and all this approach makes possible.

Yes, we’ve begun to see more cross-department collaboration, we’ve seen new storytellers both internal and external to the institution participate organically, we’ve seen larger and more wealth-diverse communities form around stories — but this is just the beginning. 

As we expand our definition of who can tell stories, our community will absolutely expand as well. 

In a recent online event hosted by Community Funded on June 19th called Story Generation, our team showcased 3 unique persona perspectives that are all equally important: 

The Storyteller (John)

The Organizer (Sara)

The Donor (Shirley)

You can see how these individual narratives interplay as they all participate in a fundraising effort.

While one of each of these people interacting to raise money may not be compelling, it’s by envisioning the power of aggregation in hundreds of people doing the same that makes the possibilities and potential clear. 

So, if I were to distill this article and the last to offer key takeaways, they would be this:

  1. While a new approach and strategy, implementing a Story Marketplace has been proven to yield positive qualitative and quantitative results.
  2. An online story on its own resonates with a wide variety of people across the wealth spectrum.
  3. Digital-first, not digital-only is an effective way to leverage a story through multiple channels.
  4. This is only the beginning of what is possible as new results continue to manifest. 

If you would like to discuss how your organization can create a story marketplace, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us share some ideas with you!  

Up next, how to create a Story Marketplace at your institution. Stay tuned!