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May 30

Enhancing Donor Engagement with Digital Storytelling and AI


Enhancing donor engagement through storytelling is not just a cool trend; it’s a crucial element that can transform donor engagement and drive successful campaigns.

When we share compelling narratives about the impact of donations, we move beyond mere numbers and statistics to connect with our donors on an emotional level. 

These stories humanize the cause, making it tangible and relatable. 

For instance, instead of simply stating that a new lab was built, telling the story of how this lab has enabled a student to pursue groundbreaking research in renewable energy creates a vivid picture. 

This approach not only honors the contributions of donors but also illustrates the real-world impact of their generosity, fostering a deeper sense of connection and commitment to your school’s mission.

Also, storytelling taps into the innate human love for narratives. 

It allows donors to see themselves as integral parts of a larger journey, motivating them to invest not just financially, but emotionally. 

In a digital age where information overload is common, a well-told story stands out and captures attention. 

Whether through video, written reports, or social media, these stories can be shared across various platforms, reaching a broader audience and inspiring more people to contribute. 

Ultimately, by weaving engaging stories into fundraising efforts, higher education institutions can create a lasting impact that resonates with current and potential donors, ensuring sustained support and fostering a culture of philanthropy.

But enhancing donor engagement through storytelling comes with its own set of challenges.

One of the biggest hurdles is acquiring the right stories. 

Marketers often face difficulties in identifying and collecting compelling narratives from within their institutions. 

The stories that resonate the most are typically buried within various departments, and finding those who are willing to share their experiences can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. 

Moreover, alumni, students, and faculty might be hesitant to share their personal journeys, either due to privacy concerns or simply not recognizing the value of their experiences. 

This requires marketers to not only be diligent in their search but also skilled in building trust and encouraging participation.

You’ve probably felt the pressure of these challenges in your fundraising campaigns. 

But there is good news! Thinking bigger, being more interactive with donors, and enhancing donor engagement is well within reach…

…if you’re using all of the tools in your toolbox!

Specifically, I want to talk to you about applying the AI tools that are available to you in fundraising. 

By learning with AI, your college or university’s fundraising campaigns can be crafted and completed much faster while enhancing donor engagement even more than you could do on your own. 

Josh Klignman sat down with us on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast to show us how enhancing donor engagement can be made easier through AI tools. To get the AI ball rolling, we had a conversation with Josh Kligman, the Co-founder and CEO of Storyraise, on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast. 

Josh is a big proponent of speeding up processes so things can be more creative and effective for you.

In this episode, we explore enhancing donor engagement using AI tools.

The Power of Digital Storytelling in Fundraising

Josh Kligman emphasizes the importance of storytelling in engaging donors and showcasing the impact of their contributions. 

He explains that effective digital storytelling starts with understanding what you want to achieve—primarily, saying “thank you” and demonstrating the tangible outcomes of donor support.

It’s all about that storytelling element so that you can show off your school’s impact that the donors are helping you to create. 

Start by thinking about what it is you want to accomplish [through your campaign], which is usually saying “thank you” and showcasing how those funds or that time that donors and other stakeholders [have invested to] help your organization move forward. 

Think about that community impact that is being made because of donors and think about how you want to lay out reports to show that off. 

Usually this comes in the form of annual reports or impact reports, but we also see a lot of organizations that are creating recaps of events or reports that are specifically personalized to donors or reports for their board [which] packages [everything] up in a thoughtful way that says “thank you” and shows that impact. 

Of course, there are different ways in a campaign in which you could show the impact of the donor’s help. 

You could throw out statistics or showcase some cool charts. 

But according to Josh, for enhancing donor engagement, it is better to tell a simple story.

I’ve seen a lot of reports that are pretty good with getting real and getting authentic, but that’s where the storytelling is really most powerful. 

For example, if your organization put a playground in the community, you don’t have to talk about how great the playground is. 

Instead, you could talk about how little Johnny and Susie are most affected by this great new playground that’s in the community because your donor dollars helped put it there. “Before, they were doing X, Y and Z. And now look at this change that’s happened because of you!”

Crafting Compelling Stories

One of the key points Josh highlights is the necessity of collecting and curating compelling stories throughout the year. 

You’ve got to collect those stories, whether they’re user generated content pieces or stories that you found all throughout the year. 

There are different ways to do that. Let’s use alumni as an example.

I saw an impact report come from Cornell where they did a great job highlighting their work [in agricultural and food studies]. 

They took different entrepreneurs that graduated from Cornell University and showed where they are now with the different foods that they’re producing and how they package them up and how it’s great for New York and how it’s great for them. 

And they attribute Cornell in doing that.

There are alumni that are probably talking on your social media channels or connected to you in other ways. 

[It’s important to] pick out those stories that already exist, especially so you don’t have to panic with the content one month before you need to create it. [Save those stories] throughout the year. 

In our conversation, Josh mentions tools like MemoryFox, which help organizations gather and store user-generated content, making it easier to create authentic and impactful reports.

Best Practices for Digital Reporting

Josh outlines several best practices for creating digital reports that are optimized for enhancing donor engagement:

  • Short Format: Keep content concise and to the point.
  • Web-Friendly: Ensure reports are mobile-responsive and easily accessible on various devices.
  • Interactive Elements: Incorporate videos and interactive features to enhance engagement.
  • Personalization: Tailor reports to specific donor segments to make the content more relevant and impactful.

He shares an example from the University of Michigan Alumni Association, which embedded videos within their impact reports to break up text and keep readers engaged.

They created a really nice impact report, and they were telling a story about various things that were going on with the program, and they had a video that they were using elsewhere, and they embedded that within the report. 

It broke it up [into consumable pieces of information]. It looked nice. They didn’t have to create something additional for the report, [because] they were recycling content. 

At the end of the day, it was mobile responsive. Most of those donors are opening up the report on their cell phone or even an iPad. And no matter where you open [the impact report], it [gives the donor] a really nice, engaging experience.

Measuring Success and ROI

Tracking the success of fundraising reports is crucial. 

Josh explains that platforms like Storyraise provide metrics on how much time donors spend with the reports, allowing institutions to gauge engagement and effectiveness.

“When you personalize reports, you can see how individual donors interact with the content. This helps in understanding what resonates with them and improving future reports,” Josh notes.

Leveraging AI for Efficiency

AI plays a significant role in enhancing the creation of donor reports and campaigns.

Josh discusses how AI tools can help write content, generate images, and build charts, significantly reducing the time and effort required.

We’ve noticed from our Storyraise customers that are creating reports [that they want] to create content faster, design faster, and make images where they would have to supplement stock photography faster. 

So we have features we’ve developed [using AI] that help you do just that. 

[For example], if you need to write a letter from the head of the organization thanking everybody for a great year, you can tell [the AI platform] within our solution to do that [based on specific prompts]. 

[Or maybe you need to] write a story of impact showing X, Y and Z from the year. [The AI tool in Storyraise] gives you a running head start. It gives you ideas, and then you can edit from there. 

Then, as you type, you can automatically generate images that go along with that copy and build charts, too. 

So instead of tinkering around in Excel, you could just say, “I need to show my revenue and expenses for the whole year for this Giving Tuesday project.” You just type in high level [descriptions of] what you want and the AI charts will build it for you. 

What we most recently are putting out is along the lines of AI for campaigns, and that’s all about building fully baked social media, email, and direct mail campaigns using AI.

Enhancing Donor Engagement Made Easy with AI

Josh Kligman’s insights highlight the transformative potential of AI and digital storytelling in higher education fundraising. 

By leveraging these tools, schools like yours can create more engaging and impactful donor reports, streamline their workflows, and ultimately enhance their fundraising efforts.

For more information on Storyraise and their innovative solutions, visit Storyraise.

And if you want to learn more about how AI and digital storytelling can enhance your institution’s fundraising efforts, contact us today to explore the latest tools and techniques available. 

For the whole interview with Josh Kligman, click here to get even more insights into:

  • Digging deep into compelling stories
  • Means of effective storytelling
  • Utilizing AI for campaign development
  • Insight into future AI trends

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