How a story can help raise millions

Ask any of us at Tigermoth, and we’ll give it to you straight: There is no great fundraising success without great stories. We’ve helped clients raise millions of dollars by serving as their fundraising communications partner, and we know this to be true. You can develop an airtight strategy, a spot-on feasibility study that creates buy-in, a case statement with powerful words and pretty pictures — but if you’re not sharing stories about the people whose lives have been changed, you’re going to have a tough time making the emotional connection that leads to financial commitments. So let’s talk about fundraising storytelling.

We witness the power of storytelling all the time, especially since so many of our clients are organizations that live and die by their ability to raise money and cultivate critical partners:

Colleges and universities.

Nonprofits changing outcomes for at-risk students.

Centers supporting those experiencing homelessness.

Health organizations that are improving well-being in our community.

There is no shortage of stories there, we assure you.

Using stories in fundraising brings to life the longstanding “Show, don’t tell” rule. We could tell you to support the YWCA-National Capital Area because of its mission to eliminate racism and empower women — two favorite causes of ours. Or we could couple compelling data with an important voice, true-to-life, documentary-style photography and a video that puts a lump in your throat and goosebumps on your arms. Just hit play.


We can talk all day about fundraising goals, but how do you get someone to actually write the check? In the case of the video above, have a meaningful conversation with someone who traded a crack addiction for the powerful support network and educational opportunities at YWCA. Walk with her around her neighborhood, see the concrete step of the church where she used to sleep, and then follow her to work, where she is now successful and thriving — that’s what this video captures and that’s what helps donors understand why their contributions are so important.

Over the last 20 years, our team has crafted inspiring, documentary-style, impact-showcasing stories, like this one, for organizations we’re so glad to call our partners. Stories that move donors to action — especially when they are shared effectively.

Last year, we got to see our video play at YWCA-NCA’s annual fundraising lunch. We felt the emotion in the room as the piece came to a close and Kim appeared on stage — a great choice by our client, to recognize her in person. What a ripe environment for donors to feel fantastic about their contribution. Add the video to the website and share it on email with those who missed it, and now you’re getting the message out there. A few months later, we followed the video with an Annual Report that balanced numbers with human interest stories about people within the YWCA community. Through this kind of campaign, we help donors get to know the Y like we’ve come to know them.


Our passion for campaign work took root during our time at the UNC Greensboro. The Students First Campaign gave us a chance to bring a voice, a unifying theme and stories — so many stories — to life across all kinds of print pieces (see above), in videos, in photography, on the web and in speeches…from kickoff to wrap-up. The Students First Campaign goal was $78 million, but ultimately ended up raising $115 million. That work was a while ago now, and since then we’ve continued to further our expertise in the art and science of using storytelling to maximize fundraising efforts.

University of North Carolina School of the Arts, another partner of ours, is a great example of the importance of donor relations — the work you do to show your gratitude for the people who help you achieve your vision, whether through a simple but heartfelt written note or a memorable event. Many organizations neglect this part, but they shouldn’t. Staying connected to donors cultivates lasting relationships.

UNCSA gets it. Recently, the school partnered with the North Carolina Museum of Art to recognize one of our state’s most gracious philanthropists and arts supporters — Mr. Tom Kenan. Rebecca LaPlante, our master of just about everything involving planning and organization, helped carry out their vision for the event, which was a who’s-who-of-North Carolina gathering. Tigermoth also had the pleasure of creating a video highlighting several Kenan Scholars — students and alumni who directly benefited from Kenan’s generosity (top). Kenan helped set these bright, talented artists on a path that allowed them to make careers out of their craft. With our work on both the video and the event, our goal was not only to honor Kenan, but to inspire guests to follow in his footsteps by creating their own kind of legacy — and to make sure our client, UNCSA, knows we are a trusted partner in their fundraising efforts.

In our world, there’s almost nothing better than collaborating with clients who believe in showcasing why they do what they do through the people who make their work meaningful and distinctive. Campaign fundraising is a natural fit. Not only that, the stories we tell are a constant reminder that change for the better is all around us.

Andrea Crossley Spencer is Co-founder and Director of Creative Writing at Tigermoth Creative. Her 20-year copywriting career spans advertising agencies and higher education, with a focus on brand messaging and fundraising. A fiction writer on the side, Andrea is represented by Copps Literary Services. She teaches writing workshops to young writers in local schools.