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Effective Fundraising Is Always a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Story

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Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? They are kid-fiction adventures that originated in the late 70s. Each book is narrated in the second person — you — and offers periodic decision points for the reader. It goes something like this:

  • If you decide to explore the cave, turn to page 52.
  • If you decide to walk away, turn to page 65.

The reader chooses. Your choice leads to a different outcome of the story. It’s a more active form of reading than normal books.

Fundraising should be like that. A way for each donor to participate — to make choices that matter.

Fundraising should actually be way better. Because it’s real, not fiction. When a donor decides to give, she not only feels the joy of giving … she actually helps change the world!

A fundraising message structured like a Choose Your Own might go something like this:

Something is wrong in the world. It’s wrong in a way that breaks your heart. It’s very clearly wrong, and it urgently needs to be fixed, and the way to help fix it is to send a donation.

  • If you decide to send a donation, turn to page 52.
  • If you decide not to send a donation, turn to page 65.

What happens if a donor decides to give and turn to page 52?

They get a warm glow as their brain confirms to them that helping others is the right thing to do. They quickly get a thank you message that specifically tells them what their money is on its way to do. Later on, they get more information proving to them that their gift really did make a difference! It’s almost as if you decided to explore the cave in the Choose Your Own book and then found a real-life chest of treasure!

What happens if the donor decides not to give and turns to page 65?

Not much. Story over. She’ll have other chances.

That’s the beauty of it. Every donor always has the right to say no when giving isn’t the right option for them.

But this is why fundraising is so amazing. It’s not just hypothetical outcomes. It’s a reality. What donors choose to do has an actual impact on the real world.

Sadly, you wouldn’t know that by reading most fundraising. It doesn’t set up that moment of decision. It doesn’t give the donors the chance to do something thrilling — or not do it, if they choose not to.

Instead, most fundraising is like this:

We are an awesome organization. We do awesome, important things. We’re very good at what we do. You can help fund our awesomeness by donating.

  • If you decide to send a donation, turn to page 52.
  • If you decide not to send a donation, turn to page 52 because the same things will happen either way!

In this telling, the awesomeness doesn’t depend on the donor. She can support it or not — but it makes no difference.

Charitable giving should be about action, change, progress, and relationship.

Does your fundraising create clear choices like Choose Your Own Adventure books? It should. And it can!

Want to know some specific ways to make your fundraising like a super-thrilling Choose Your Own Adventure? Check out our popular online course, Your Blueprint for Donor-Focused, High-Revenue Fundraising Storytelling. It’s available when you join The Fundrasingology Lab.


  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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