Writing emotive case studies to boost donations on your charity website
Established charities are often a gold mine of gripping stories, their field reports detailing some of the highest and lowest points of human (and animal) experience.
Yet so often these tales are left sitting gathering dust in filing cabinets. Either that or they have all the life sucked out of them as they are squeezed into a formulaic 'case study' format.
This article will help you to unearth and polish up those hidden gems and put them to use in driving donations.
Five ways to start a story
Often, starting to pen a case study is the hardest part. This is because many of us have been taught from an early age that stories begin with 'once upon a time'.
The problem is that the start is rarely the most gripping part of any story. To captivate a reader's attention, you need to make sure that your case study has immediate impact, starting with the very first sentence.
Here are some ideas:
Start with the change
Change is inspirational so why waste the opening paragraphs of your case study on highlighting the problem? Have you recently installed a well in a drought-hit community? Start with the moment that first bucket of water was lifted to the top. Re-homed a rescued puppy? Recount the moment the dog bounded into its new owner's home.
Start with feelings
The best way to connect with other people is through shared emotion. Start with how lost and devastated an orphan child felt on losing their parents. Detail the elation a cancer survivor felt on getting the all-clear.
Start with a mystery
We all have an insatiable need to solve a puzzle. Start by building up a sense of mystery. Why had the young man been tied up and drugged when he woke up in an unfamiliar building? Who was in the photograph that the young girl wouldn't let go of?
Start with a shock
Sometimes a shock is the best way to capture a visitor's undivided attention. Was the orang-utan's mother shot dead by poachers? Was the boy soldier ordered to kill his remaining family to prove his allegiance? Go for the jugular and don't let go.
Start with a quotation
A few heartfelt words from a person your charity has helped can be worth more in donations than a few hundred words of generic case study text.
The art of storytelling
Starting your case study with a gripping opener is just one of many powerful storytelling techniques you can inject into your future case studies.
Another proven strategy for creating engagement is placing your reader as the hero of the story. When a supporter reads about how a homeless family finally found a place of their own, they should be encouraged to feel proud and empowered through phrases such as, 'with your help' and 'if it wasn't for people like you.'
As far as possible, the charity should stay in the background, acting only as the vehicle through which the donor performs their heroic acts.
Through vivid descriptions, good storytellers bring characters to life, create exotic landscapes and unfold meaningful plots. Rather than reciting dry facts, they paint amazing pictures using all five senses.
At the same time, they are ruthlessly efficient, stripping out redundant words and only using repetition when they need to to drive home a point. They know the rules of grammar but they are not afraid to break them to make an impact.
As with any new skill, learning to write stories takes practice but by starting to think like a storyteller, you will soon start producing case studies that your supporters and potential donors will enjoy reading.
Where to use your case studies (hint: everywhere)
If you only have a few case studies at this stage, consider adding them to your donations page. If your stories are inspiring enough and include a clear call to action, you should see a boost in donations. If you use A/B testing, you could even run an experiment to see just how much of an impact your case studies make.
Once you have written a few case studies, try to use them in other places and formats.
Here are some ideas of where case studies can be used to great effect:
- YouTube channel
- Dedicated case study webpage
- Magazine article
- Review site
- Social media site (e.g. LinkedIn Focus or Facebook Stories)
- Answering machine message
People love reading and hearing about other people's lives so take every opportunity to flesh out your facts with some real life tales of success.