Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Storytelling for Fundraising Events

One of the key benefits of hosting a nonprofit event is the opportunity to tell your story face-to-face and tell it in a compelling way, this is typically done in the form of a case study or impact story. Stories are best told just prior to the fund-a-need or “ask” so that donors understand the impact their donation makes on the cause. The client story can be told via video, the client speaking directly to the audience, or someone else reading the client’s story on their behalf.

One word of caution: The stereotypical client video, told with sappy background music and tear-jerking story, has been done and done. If your client stories are inherently sad (think cancer) then of course you have to tell them. Just don’t go intentionally looking for stories that are going to make people cry. Audiences are looking for more uplifting stories.

2019 will mark the 80th anniversary of one of the most well-known stories in the U.S. and around the world, the Wizard of Oz. The great thing about Wizard of Oz is that it outlines all the elements of a good nonprofit story. All you need to do is follow the yellow brick road and you can create your own compelling story.


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Premise/Theme: Although there is some debate about the theme of Wizard of Oz, here’s my interpretation: No one succeeds alone. No matter your journey, you can’t reach your destination without the help of others).

Your cause/mission is your premise or theme. i.e. Cancer can be eradicated, new schools improve communities, dogs deserve love as much as humans, people shouldn’t have to worry about where to get clean water.

Plot/Goal (Home/Auntie Em) = The end destination or result.

Protagonist (Dorothy) = Your client or mission success story.

Antagonist (Wicked Witch) = The main source of conflict or adversity your client has faced as it relates to your organization’s mission. i.e. Insurance coverage was denied for cancer patient,

Story Arc (Yellow Brick Road) = The path your client traveled from the time they started their journey, met their adversity, and found resolution through your services. Flying Monkeys, Field of Poppies, etc. = Any bumps along the road your client has faced as part of the story arc.

Support Characters (Tin Man, Scarecrow & Cowardly Lion) = Anyone else your client or your organization utilizes to support your mission.  This could be outside organizations or internal staff from other departments.

Wizard = Your supporters!   Never make your organization the hero of the story. You are merely the guide that helps the heroes (your supporters) achieve the goal.

Thinking through your nonprofit story with the Wizard of Oz characters and elements in mind makes it much easier to craft your story.  Need help crafting your “ask” story? Contact me.