Tell Your Tale: 3 (Scientific) Reasons Why Stories Trump Data

You’re sitting at your desk planning your next donor visit. You wonder what information about your nonprofit is best to share. Your folder filled with client stories sits atop your folder packed with data and statistics about your organization’s impact. 

Stories or statistics? Which are best to share?

The truth is, stories will serve you and your nonprofit better. Why? It has to do with brain science. Read on for 3 powerful reasons why stories should be your fundraising tool of choice:

A good storyline affects the activity in your reader’s brain.

This 2014 Harvard Business Review article explains the neuroscience of stories. In a nutshell, hearing a story causes the human brain to produce the neurochemical, oxytocin. Oxytocin, in turn, helps us feel safe with the people around us, and motivates us to cooperate with them. This empathy and interest in cooperation are exactly what we seek from donors.

The human heart and brain are connected.

You’ve likely heard that people make donations from the goodness of their hearts. As fundraisers, we try to tug at donors’ “heartstrings.” True, charitable giving may come via the heart. But the basic, biological impulse to give begins in the brain. Stories and their effect on our neurobiology are what start the ball rolling when a donor begins to consider making a gift.

Humans are hardwired to remember stories.

Human beings are social creatures. We have used stories for thousands of years to make sense of the world and communicate with each other. According to Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, humans remember stories 22 times better than they do facts and figures alone. Wow, that’s a big difference!

Something about a narrative—particularly one that weaves a tale of triumph through hardship—sticks with us. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely the arc of many of your organization’s most powerful stories. 

If the science has convinced you, check out 5 Must-Haves of a Successful Nonprofit Story and 5 Tips for Collecting Compelling Stories to get started on the road to storytelling. 

Then, get out there and tell your tale!

What tips do you have for sharing stories about your nonprofit? Please share your experiences, thoughts and ideas in the Comments box below!

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).