Storytelling Interviews

If your nonprofit has an email newsletter, a blog, or sends fundraising letters, you need to have good stories. How do you make that happen? It starts with an interview. Here are some tips on making that special kind of interview work.

The purpose.
Start by thinking about how this interview will be used? A fundraising letter? A newsletter? Then think about your audience. Your audience is always one single person, a donor. Think about a donor you know, a real person, and plan to write to them.

The preparation.
Familiarize yourself with the program or services the client used. Prepare some questions. Use a digital recorder that you have practiced using so you can save the recording correctly. During the interview you will be taking notes only on key ideas.

The interview.
Be courteous and sensitive. At the beginning of the interview, thank them. Be an active listener. Ask questions that will bring them back to the scene of the story of their life before your charity helped them.

With many people, you just need to get them started, then listen. Don’t say anything. Just wait for them to talk. You are there to listen. When there’s a long pause, ask a question.

Throughout the interview, make your subject feel successful by saying things like, “…that’s great, you have a good memory, this is really good, thank you for being willing to be so vulnerable…” At the end of the interview, acknowledge their strength and vulnerability, and thank them again. You can’t thank too much.

Suggested questions.
Ask emotional questions to get emotional answers. What did that feel like? Tell me how it felt? Tell me how it felt when…
Tell me the story of what happened before you got connected with this charity? What was your life like?
Tell me the story of how you were helped by this charity? Was there someone in particular who you’d like to talk about?
Can you tell me more about that?
Here is the most important question, because this quote definitely belongs in whatever you’re writing: What would you say to supporters of our charity?

The story
Write your first draft as soon as possible after the interview. See Open-Hearted Writing. A good fundraising, donor-centered style of writing isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t necessarily natural. Need help with your fundraising stories? That’s what we are here for. Contact us now to see how we can help you reach your fundraising goals through better stories.