Tell Your Story

“Stories have shapes that can be drawn on graph paper.” — Kurt Vonnegut

From fantastical storybooks to nail-biting films, we engage with stories throughout our entire lives. It is here, through the power of narrative, that we learn, connect, and make choices every day, making it no coincidence that we can find the classic structure of our favorite stories in the most powerful crowdfunding campaigns. Literary legend, Kurt Vonnegut, gave us a way to see stories in graphic form, by mapping the ups and downs of human experience and taking note of the resulting shapes. Here’s a quick article and video about Kurt Vonnegut and the Shape of All Stories.

Most crowdfunding campaigns fit loosely into Vonnegut’s “Man in a Hole” shape shown below. The basic outline goes something like this:

  1. Once Upon a Time, there was a person who had a great, big, important WHY.

    (Introduce yourself and why you are doing your project. What makes it important?)

  2. There is a problem.

    You need money to do the work of the big WHY. It can’t get done without funding.

  3. The problem gets resolved by contributions to your campaign.

    After you introduce your campaign’s mission, much like a choose-your-own-adventure, your audience has the power to pick what happens next. Invite people to be part of your story by helping you out. A clear and concise call-to-action shows how they can support your efforts by backing financially, sharing, and spreading the word. Contributors are superheroes!

  4. Contributors are rewarded for helping.

    Exciting and appropriate awards offered to your supporters are part of your story.

  5. The work of the big WHY gets done.

    Explain how the funds will be used to make the big WHY happen. Keep contributors informed of your progress after your campaign with updates and emails.

Here are some key tips to keep in mind as you write your compelling story:

  • Take it one bite at a time: A good story takes time. As you speak to your team and community, you’ll discover what resonates and excites them.

  • Look for inspiration: Feeling stuck? Look at other successful campaigns for content that inspires. Don’t forget to use your team to pull together compelling ideas, images, and text. Multiple perspectives can be very helpful in the story brainstorming stage.

  • Make it easy: Your story should be short enough to skim (300-500 words) and include the basics of WHY, WHAT, WHO & HOW (WHAT YOU NEED) + a DIRECT ASK for support. Make it clear and easy for your audience to know what they can do next to support.

  • Keep it personal: Your story should be written in different forms to reach your unique audiences, such as your local town, affinity groups, or specific demographics. Make it personal, interesting and important by writing as if to one person in each group.

  • Have fun: The best storytellers enjoy the process. Find a way to tell yours that feels good to you. Not loving writing? Video is a perfect tool for you!

Telling your story with video

A good video starts with a strategy. While it can be tempting to grab a camera and wing it, you can create a highly impactful DIY video with a simple outline, your smart phone, and a few key tips:

  • Show and Tell. Balance your campaign story with narration and visuals.

  • Consider your tone. Who are you talking to? What emotion are you trying to portray?

  • Capture your audience with a strong hook within the first 10 seconds. Why should they keep watching? Tell them!

  • Show your face! People connect to people. Don’t be shy. Put a face (and personality!) on your message.

  • Be concise. Prepare a script ahead of time and keep it under 2 minutes. Research says 90 seconds is ideal.

  • Double check that you record quality video and audio. Check background noise or lens obstructions; but don’t stress: your smart phone has all the tools you need!

Make it Legal! Be sure you have permission to use images, music, and video. Using copyrighted material is almost always against the law and the easiest way to avoid copyright troubles is to create all the content yourself; or use content that is free for public use. A great resource for free images is Creative Commons. A web search for “royalty free music” will help you find many sources for video music.