February 12, 2015 \ Emma Freter
Remember this ingredient to increase donation dollars

Information is important. Hard data that shows a positive impact is necessary. However, the black and white text is sometimes not enough to convince people to contribute to a cause. In order to get someone’s attention, especially in the fast-paced world we live in, you need to connect with them on a human and emotional level. A simple story can create that much needed bond.

Recently, I attended a webinar hosted by mStoner, which focused on alumni engagement and how to encourage those alumni to donate. Even though this webinar was not about film or video marketing, the importance of storytelling resonated throughout the 60-minute seminar. Soon after, I came across “We Can Illuminate the Future,” a video created by Vassar College to encourage alumni to make a contribution to the annual fund. Vassar’s video shares some numbers, but it also illustrates mStoner’s point about the importance of storytelling.

The video starts by informing the viewer that the annual fund, contrary to common belief, is not a “black hole.” The fund actually provides light. Literally. The endowment buys 9,206 light bulbs per year (that’s a lot of light bulbs). Vassar also points out that this money also supports scholarships, books, scholarly journals, lab equipment and faculty.

But these facts alone probably won’t persuade most people to donate to the annual fund, so from there Vassar tells the story of Jessica, a student who indirectly benefitted from the fund. Jessica set out to major in English, but found a passion for neuroscience. This particular student was able to do groundbreaking research with her professor in a fly-worm lab that “may shed light on Alzheimer’s.” This top-notch lab was supported in part by the annual fund. Once she graduated from Vassar, Jessica proceeded on to medical school.

Jessica’s story strikes a chord because it is relatable. She was enabled to explore her interests and eventually discover her true passion. By seamlessly weaving together the concrete information with a true story to create that emotional connection, Vassar more strongly demonstrates the great the importance of their annual fund.

I am guilty of avoiding my phone when I see the number of my Alumni Relations Relations office pop up on the screen. Having watched this video, even though it’s not from my alma mater, it made me want to donate to my school! For me, having the information visually displayed had a greater impact than someone trying to convince me over the phone to open my wallet. After watching this video, memories of my great experience at Union College (Go Dutchmen!) came flooding back in a wave of nostalgia. I was reminded of the wonderful academic and social community I was (and still am) a part of.

Vassar’s video effectively blends data and storytelling. How are you mixing the two?