Why Your Fundraising Video Lacks An Emotional Punch

5 min read
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Many environmental organizations face the challenge of creating compelling stories that truly resonate and drive fundraising success. If you're anything like our clients before working with us, you're probably frustrated that your fundraising videos are good but lack that emotional impact.

Common Storytelling Mistakes, Especially In Fundraising Stories

Environmental nonprofits and cleantech companies often make these storytelling marketing mistakes:

  1. Focusing too much on facts and data.
  2. Providing vague or complex information.
  3. Avoiding conflict and challenges.

However, the biggest video storytelling mistake is choosing someone who speaks well but lacks strong emotional elements like desire, motivation, and uniqueness. These elements are crucial for connecting with your audience on a deeper level and making your fundraising video effective.

For example, your organization wants to tell an impact story. So, you reach out to someone who has benefited from your services and tell their story.

The Consequences of Flat Fundraising Videos

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Imagine your organization wants to tell an impact story.

You choose someone who has benefited from your services, but their story lacks emotional depth. Your audience might be informed but not inspired to take action.

When your story lacks emotional depth, it fails to engage your audience, leading to flat and uninspiring video storytelling.

This type of storytelling can negatively affect your fundraising and awareness efforts, resulting in minimal impact and wasted resources. Your audience might watch, but they won't be engaged. They’ve learned about your organization but aren’t inspired to give.

These days, people, especially funders, are story-fatigued and overloaded with emotion.

A 2019 report suggests donor retention rates for nonprofits are around 45%, indicating many stop giving after a year (DonorPerfect, 2019 Nonprofit Benchmark Report).

Generic stories that don’t captivate the heart cause your audience to tune out.

Your Stories Need More Desire, Motivation, and Uniqueness

Photo by pine watt on Unsplash

Choosing the right person for your stories, involves emotion and science. You need to select someone who can emotionally transport your audience into the story without donor manipulation.

Returning to our earlier example, choosing someone from your nonprofit storytelling impact story begins with determining if they have a strong desire, motivation, and uniqueness.

Desire, motivation, and uniqueness touch on shared human truths and experiences. We all have things we want to achieve in life, and some of us have strong motivations for desiring those things. Everyone is unique if allowed to share what makes them different.


An engaging story includes a character who wants something. Take Lion King, for example. The main character, Simba, wants to be a king like his father, Mufassa. Simba sings, "Oh, I just can't wait to be king." This desire drives and influences Simba's decisions.

The person chosen for your fundraising video needs a strong desire. What do they want? What would life look like for them in three years? What’s their biggest dream?


A strong desire without a strong why is a wish. Motivation is the why that drives a person's appetite. Simba's reason for wanting to be king was to do things his way, to avoid the rules of others. He sings, "Free to run around all day…free to do it all my way."

The person chosen for your fundraising video needs strong motivation. Their why helps create a connection through relatability, allowing your audience to empathize with them.


Lastly, what makes this person different? People's differences are intriguing, drawing us into their world. The same old becomes mundane, but uniqueness snaps us out of sameness and engages us.

Adding unique personal details can make the story stand out even more. For instance, share specific anecdotes or challenges your person has faced and overcome them. This will enhance their individuality.

Pre-interviewing Helps to Discover A Person's Desire, Motivation, and Uniqueness. 

By pre-interviewing potential people for your story, you can discover individuals with a strong desire tied to your cause, a clear motivation for involvement, and a unique perspective that sets them apart.

This approach allows you to craft a narrative that resonates with the audience, leaving a lasting impression and inspiring them to take action in your fundraising video.

Case Study Example: Environmental Initiative Awards

Our client, Environmental Initiative, hires us to inspire a room of change-makers at their annual awards event. Over the years, we’ve told 16 stories of various people and projects.

The stories that have caused the room to erupt in a standing ovation or caused donors to increase their annual giving are the ones where the person’s desire, motivation, and uniqueness were strong and on display.

Reducing Medical Waste

Reducing Medical Waste, Large-Scale Sustainability Impacts, Environmental Initiative Award, 2022

This was the case when we told the story of reducing medical Styrofoam waste. On the surface, this topic seems bland. But we worked with Geoffrey to lead with emotion.

He shared his significant, emotional experience about buying groceries during COVID. He was annoyed by all the plastic and felt guilty contributing to the waste in the landfills. We started with vulnerability to build a connection and give viewers a reason to care about Geoffrey’s recycling Styrofoam initiative.

Now, his storytelling video is ready for fundraising or simply sharing his work.

Conclusion: Enhancing Fundraising Videos with Emotional Storytelling

The most significant way to put the right people on camera is to identify characters with desire, motivation, and uniqueness. After all, the goal is to connect with your audience, right?

Conducting pre-interviews with potential people is a great way to discover their big three. Including the big three in your fundraising video will take your audience on a journey while keeping them engaged.

Take the next step and learn how to conduct pre-interviews to determine desires, motivation, and uniqueness for your next fundraising video.

[…] do this to discover the big three: uniqueness, desire, and motivation. If your story ever felt flat, the driver might have needed a […]
[…] Pick Your Heart: Choose a central character that aligns with your goals and work and possesses the Big 3 (desire, motivation, uniqueness). Conduct pre-interviews to find and discover these […]

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We're a storyfirst film and video production company, based in Minnesota, specializing in emotive stories that elevate empathy, community, and funding. 

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