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  • Writer's pictureKitsap Community Foundation

Building your endowment-specific fundraising stories

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Fundraising asks can be cast in many forms, including direct mail, phone solicitations, and digital advertising to name a few. These asks are often of the quick-hit variety and yield gifts that help keep your organization's daily operations running.

But to accomplish bigger goals and supplement your routine efforts, an endowment is absolutely critical. Formalizing your endowment, especially through establishing a fund at Kitsap Community Foundation, helps your organization attract donors’ investable gifts that can produce sustainable returns while the principal or endowed amount remains intact.

Bigger gifts, of course, require bigger efforts, and that’s where the power of stories and storytelling come in.

By mastering your organization's stories – and knowing the type of story your audience or prospect will be receptive to – you can connect with donors on an emotional level to achieve engagement and ultimately gain their more significant support, including major gifts and bequests to your endowment. This type of strategy is crucial to grow your endowment and ensure that your mission stays strong for generations to come.

To get started, you will need to employ an effective blend of storytelling and insight to engage your audience.

Let’s first consider your audience. Surely, you’ll know their background and what might motivate them. It’s even better if you know their values and lifestyle.

Once equipped, employ emotional intelligence through empathy, curiosity, asking open-ended questions, and doing more listening than talking. Here are a few tips:

  • If you suspect that someone is motivated by ideals and principles, and are the type to easily discern right from wrong (this person often speaks of what “should” be), then you can supplement the story with data.

  • If they’re status or achievement oriented, you can incorporate their role in the ultimate outcome or how that will appear to others.

  • If they’re emotionally driven and someone who appears to make gut decisions, then emphasize the personal impacts their support will have on others.

Next, start building the stories. Here are types of stories you can use in your fundraising efforts to build your endowment:

  • The so-called “founder’s story” is the organizational “why” or purpose, telling the problem to be solved, based on an event. (For example: “After his 33-year-old brother passed away from brain tumor complications, Matt wanted to fund brain cancer research. So, he started a nonprofit 20 years ago and over the years has raised more than $20 million for research, mostly through 5K events held annually in nearly 30 markets.)

    • The “purpose” story conveys the continuous impact of the organization (For example: “Every year we make grants to fund clinical trials and inspire hope in patients, families, and the brain tumor community.”)

    • The “constituent” or “customer” story is often a testimonial. (For example: “Bob’s health is ‘holding steady’ due to a treatment that our organization’s grants helped sponsor.”)

    • The “connective” story is often fictional and relates to the future. (For example: “With continued support and effort, we’ll continue to make progress and ease the burden on patients and families.”)

After you’ve honed a few stories, you’re ready for the preparation stage. Classic communications constructs, or structures, can help you kickstart, prepare or supplement the stories you’ll tell. Here are a few options:

  • Under a model that’s sometimes called the “What?/So what?/Now what?” arrangement:

    • What? is the key idea or argument to be made.

    • So what? is the relevance of the idea or argument to the audience.

    • Now what? is the thoughts, feelings, and actions you wish your audience to hold or enact.

  • Another method is known as “And/But/Therefore,” which logically leads an audience through a setup >> problem >> resolution sequence. For example: “It’s been 20 years that we’ve been raising money for brain cancer research and we have much to celebrate. But far too many people – more than 18,000 – died from brain tumors last year. Therefore, more funding is needed to keep brain tumor patients living longer and to reduce the impacts to families.”

To raise endowment-level funding, use authenticity-infused storytelling that boosts your organization’s everyday tactics and semi-annual campaigns. Then, when you’re ready, start to layer in the various options for complex giving and planned giving, since many endowment gifts will come in the form of estate gifts and bequests. Be sure to always remind your audience of potential endowment donors that your organization–through its endowment fund held at Kitsap Community Foundation–can accept gifts in many forms, including:

  • Gifts of life insurance

  • Retirement plan beneficiary designations

  • Qualified Charitable Distributions from an IRA

  • Gifts of closely-held stock

  • Gifts of real estate

  • Charitable remainder trusts

  • Charitable gift annuities

  • Highly-appreciated stock

Finally, make sure you are constantly reinforcing basic tax principles that will further encourage your donors to make large gifts to your endowment, such as:

  • IRA and retirement plan beneficiary designations to an endowment fund at Kitsap Community Foundation allow the donor’s heirs to avoid both income and estate tax on these assets

  • Gifts of highly-appreciated stock or real estate to a charity during lifetime can avoid capital gains tax and also result in an income tax deduction

  • Assets flowing to charity through a bequest in a will or trust will not be subject to estate taxes thanks to the charitable deduction

Please reach out to Kitsap Community Foundation anytime. We are here to help you successfully build your endowment fund to ensure that your organization can continue to improve the quality of life in our community for years to come. It is our honor to be your partner.


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