"How to make a long story short" by Emma Beeston

Jun 26, 2016

"Stories influence how people feel, think and behave. As Ken Burnett says in his latest book, ‘Storytelling can change the world’: “one of the best tools we have to help change this flawed world is a story, told well”.

As any fundraiser knows, storytelling is a great way to connect with donors. But how do you get the power of a story into a formal funding bid?

In funding application forms the focus is on answering the questions posed about the need for your project, how you measure your outcomes, the aims of your organisation etc. The person reading your bid will be looking for the fit with criteria and weighing up the evidence you provide against other applicants. But they are still human and it is important to remember that funding decisions are just as much an art as a science.

So stories will still help your bid to stand out and be remembered, and bring to life the issues affecting those you help. But application forms often have tight word counts, which place a constraint on storytelling. The people at the other end of your bid, whether an assessor, grants officer or grant panel member, will be reading a lot of bids at any one time and so may well skip over long case studies due to time pressures.

So if you can’t use long case studies, how do you fit in a story?

My advice is to use ‘for example’ – a lot. It is your best friend when it comes to adding mini-stories to your bid.

Here are some examples …

"This role will provide advice and support to homeless migrants and refugees."


"This role will provide advice and support to homeless migrants and refugees e.g. we help people who are sleeping on the street to get ID, a deposit and rent, and find somewhere to live."

"We ensure specialist skills don’t die out." 


"We ensure specialist skills don’t die out e.g. there is only one person in England remaining who conserves portrait miniatures and he is about to retire. We need funding for a trainee to carry on his work." 

"We provide basic computer skills training." 


"We provide basic computer skills training e.g. on setting up and using email so that parents can receive the information sent out by schools." 

Mini-stories will help you to illustrate the nature and depth of your intervention and can convey credibility by grounding your words in reality. With these extra words you can create pictures in the mind of the reader which means they will have a fuller sense of what it is that you do and how their funding will help.

The End."

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