When it comes to your Special Appeal (aka: Fund-A-Need or Paddle Raiser) you want to share a compelling story with your audience. When they hear the story of someone whose life was changed by your organization's work, they will be motivated to GIVE!
Yeah Artisan. We know this. Why are you bringing it up?
I sometimes hear Development Directors say, "We can't share any stories because we don’t want to exploit our client base.” Oh friends, please know I don’t want you to ever exploit those you serve. I want you to empower them.
Oxford Languages defines:
Exploit: make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource).
Empower: give (someone) the authority or power to do something; make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.
Okay Artisan, but how can I empower my appeal speaker?
It’s really simple.
EMPOWER: Let them tell their own story, in their own words. When we pass the microphone to the person who owns the story and they share their story in a video or from a stage, we are “making them stronger and more confident”, or empowering them, especially when sharing their journey in their own words in front of a large audience.
EXPLOIT: If we are inviting them to the stage to stand on full display while we talk about what has happened to them in their lifetime, we are “making full use of and deriving a benefit from [them as] a resource”, or exploiting them, in front of our audience.
See the difference?
Ideally, your hero will have participated in a video production to share their story. It is recorded and edited, highlighting your work, and keeping your hero comfortable with sharing their life. They then come to the stage to give their gratitude to the organization and ask the audience to donate. When this ASK comes from this person who just shared their journey, that is when the magic happens. Your audience feels connected to your hero and wants to see your organization continue onward in this great work.
Remember when you were a kid and played the game, Telephone? Someone starts out with a phrase and whispers it to the next person who continues the secret to the next person and after it has gone through about a dozen people the final person stands up and declares something vaguely similar to what the first person said. The first person jumps up and says, “No, I said this….” and then everyone laughs at how close they got…or didn’t.
This is not the vibe you want for your appeal, friends. Don’t try to share someone else’s story. It doesn’t have the same impact. If your story’s hero is able to be present at your event, the best thing you can do is hand them the microphone.