Using the power of lived experience to move and motivate your donors

by Givey Team

5 June 2024

My story is one of tragedy.

It’s a hard one to hear. But there is so much to learn and gain from it if you take the time to listen…

The morning of 12 November 2018 began as a very normal one for us. I wasn’t to know that this day would turn into the worst one of our lives. My husband, Steve had left as usual for work, kissing our daughters goodbye as he always did. They were just nine and two at the time.

Later that day I received a call from Steve’s office to tell me he had not arrived, he wasn’t answering their calls and he seemed to have disappeared without a trace. I was stunned by this. It had never happened before and I felt utterly helpless.
Steve never came home that night and when I reported him as a missing person, the police treated it as a low priority case because he had no history of mental illness and had no reason to be in any imminent danger.
Three days later, two police officers arrived at my door to deliver fifteen words I will never forget: “We’ve found him. He’s not alive. And it’s clear he has done it to himself.”

Grayscale Photography of Woman Touching Her Eyes

This moment of horror was when my world fell apart and my story changed forever.

The struggles that my children and I have faced have been extreme and intense and this new and very different story to the one I had planned has made me who I am today.

Through this new narrative, we connected with kind and compassionate characters. Many of these individuals represented charities and non-profits dedicated to supporting people like us, who have been impacted by suicide and faced with the effects of mental health challenges. Whether these causes were committed to supporting the wellbeing of children and young people suffering grief and loss after a death, or charities who provide support to adult survivors of bereavement by suicide, they all helped in their own way.

I’ll be forever grateful for their support. 

They have become a permanent part of my new narrative, helping to shape the stories I tell. These stories make a difference. They help others like me and I’ll continue to tell them to anyone who will listen.

There are multiple reasons why sharing lived experiences like mine are so powerful when a point needs to be made:

  • Messages tied to a story are up to 22 times more memorable
  • Around 98% of the decisions we make are based purely on emotion
  • Change is 6 times more likely to succeed with a strong story connected to it

So, what makes a good story?

  • A good story is honest, meaningful, aspirational and emotive
  • It contains a common purpose
  • It’s told by people, genuinely and truthfully
  • It enables a personal connection to be made
Couple Holding Hands Over Table

And what are the ways that small charities can benefit from sharing lived experiences?

Motivation – We are moved by lived experiences as they have the ability to reach hearts as well as minds. The emotional connections we make with these stories prompt us into action.

Empowerment – Lived experiences provide unique insight into the way people think, feel and behave. This invaluable information can help us to strengthen the way we do things, from holding fundraising events to training our volunteers. 

Inclusion – Using lived experience can help us draw on and incorporate language that is more inclusive and less stigmatising, making our communications more accessible to wider audiences.

Connection – Sharing lived experiences helps build a sense of belonging and commitment to our cause, as more genuine, deeper connections are formed based on authentic knowledge of one other.

Creativity – Stories of lived experiences can feel vastly different to any other type of content we share. This shift in tone forces us to look beyond the norm to find more creative, sensitive and respectful ways to share them.

In summary…

If you’re looking to proactively mobilise your network, grow your communities, and promote content that resonates with your donors and supporters, there is no better way than sharing real, powerful lived experiences.  

Author Bio

Caroline Roodhouse is an internal communications consultant working across multiple industries, from education and health services to pharma and FMCG. Caroline is passionate about CPD, constantly learning and growing through training and mentoring, workshops, conferences and courses and professional qualifications. In 2018, Caroline’s husband of 18 years took his own life without warning, leaving behind two young children. Caroline writes and talks about her lived experience of grief and loss to give a voice to those impacted by suicide.

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