Supporters Can’t Resist This (So Use it in your Emails)

email writing Sep 17, 2020
Smiling missionary

Written by Robby Fowler

As a missionary, campus minister, pastor, or ministry leader who raises support, you have supporters you email.

Sure, sending emails often feels like an accomplishment in itself. But the goal isn’t for you to simply send emails to supporters. Your goal is to have supporters and subscribers READ your support emails and benefit from them.

How To You Turn Your Support Emails from Bland to Bam!

Use these 4 Tips to get more supporters excited about your emails.

(BTW these 4 tips are based on a mashup of Sir Isaac Newton and Corinthians. (Yep. You read that correctly. So predictable, right? Hah! I laugh in the face of predictable.)

Start With What You Have LOTS Of…

As a missionary, you have this in spades.

“What’s that?” you ask.

Stories.

You find yourself in the darnedest places, facing the darnedest things. You’ve got stories about weird food, desperate circumstances, impossible resistance, broken people, and high stakes meetups.

The good news is, everybody loves a great story.

So the first tip is easy…

Tip 1: Share great stories in your emails to supporters.

Sounds easy enough, right?!

That leads us right into the second tip.

Tip 2: Document your stories along the way.

It does you no good to sit on a goldmine of stories if you forget the gold. So find a simple way for you to document your stories. Do it everyday. All day.

You can document them in whatever format is most comfortable for you.

  • Write them down in a journal at the end of the day.
  • Record a voice memo on your phone.
  • Use an app like Evernote to record them (written or voice).
  • Keep a small, spiral-bound pocket notebook and pen in your pocket like a reporter.
  • Take a quick video on your phone.

The point is—keep track of the stories happening in and around your mission and ministry.

OK. Onto part three now.

Tip 3: Become a Phenom at telling stories.

I know what you're thinking.

'Ahhhh. There's the catch. I have to be born a great storyteller. And I'm not. So this doesn't apply to me.'

Wrong!

Anyone can learn to improve their storytelling chops. And you fall into a subset of the category ‘anyone’.

While there are lots of tricks you can learn, let’s start with one of the best. Oh, and it also happens to be simple!

Before I share one of the best tips to improve your storytelling, let me set it up using Sir Isaac Newton and Corinthians

How Sir Isaac Newton Can Make You A Better Storyteller

Warning: This feels like a random turn down an unecessary alley. I promise you, it is NOT. Read on, friend. It'll all make sense momentarily.

I flattened out the edges of my son's study guide. The big test was on Thursday.

Being the third child, you can guarantee whatever comes out of his black backpack will appear like dark magic. From the deep recesses of an unknown compartment, a handout arises. I shake some Cheezits crumbs from the fold of a creased corner. Nice.

From the back page, I unstick the random assignment from an entirely different class…from 10 weeks ago. It appears to be adhered by something from the syrups family.

At least this time, the study guide didn't disappear into another dimension somewhere between his last class period and the car pickup line.

"I swear I put it right here when she handed it out in class", he'll say on the witness stand when this happens.

And so began our study session for the looming science exam—a studying more akin to a wrestling match with an 8th grader unjustly ripped away from his gaming console than an eager child and his tutor.

The lead story of the study guide…you guessed it…Sir Isaac Newton.

You remember 8th grade science, correct?

According to the study notes, Newton's Third Law of motion states…

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Unlike me, I’m sure you remember Newton’s laws. But for now, put a pin in it. We’ll come back to this in 30 seconds.

How Corinthians Can Make You A Better Storyteller

Consider this famous passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth…

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
—1 Corinthians 15:55

Paul begins this epic portion of his letter with a compelling summary of the gospel.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved…
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…
—1 Corinthians 15:1–4

In other words, this whole gospel thing is a pretty big deal for Paul.

Bringing It All Back Together, As Promised (The Newton + Corinthian Mashup)

Here's why we took a sharp left a few moments ago down Newton lane.

The Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion and 1 Corinthians 15 detour unlocks one of the clearest rules to great storytelling.

And I want you to start using it!

Are you ready for it?

Tip 4: Conflict is The Key to Sharing a Great Story

Here’s all you need to remember to begin sharing better stories with your supporters…

Inspiring stories are NOT simply about what a character accomplishes. They are about what a character OVERCOMES!

Let me illustrate…

Suppose you want to share a story with supporters about a recent Board of Directors trip to your ministry in Latin America.

Told straight up, you might follow this outline:

  • Last month we took a trip to Quito, Ecuador
  • Our 8 Board Members came
  • We had a lovely trip where they saw firsthand what's happening with the ministry
  • We're all back home now
  • Thanks for praying for our trip
  • The end

Let’s face it. We’ve all written a similar email update. The problem is, it’s a yawner of a story.

Where’s the conflict? What challenge had to be overcome?

If great stories capture more than just what was accomplished—8 Board Members went on a trip—we need to reframe our story around a challenge.

Here’s the same story with a different outline focused on a challenge to overcome:

  • This ministry began with a dream 25 years ago
  • In large part, the advancement of the mission depends on great leadership by the Board of Directors
  • But in 25 years, we've never taken the Board together to see what God is doing in the field
  • Nothing is more important to the next 3 years of this ministry than getting the Board to experience the ministry firsthand
  • And nothing has been more impossible in 25 years than coordinating 8 schedules for an international trip
  • And that's precisely why I asked you to pray with me for this trip!
  • Here's how we miraculously all got there and what happened as a result
  • Your prayer and support is making a huge impact!

Which story would you rather read if you were a supporter?

This is the storytelling lesson captured in Newton’s Third Law of Motion and illustrated in 1 Corinthians 15.

First, Consider Newton…

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

This means…

The bigger the challenge you include in your story,
the bigger the investment your audience will have in seeing it resolved.

If your story has little-to-no central challenge to overcome, your reader will have little-to-no reason to read it.

Second, Consider 1 Corinthains 15…

The gospel is the grandest story. It is THE story. And Paul highlights one reason the gospel is not only true news, but good news.

The biggest challenge Jesus had to overcome was conquering sin and death on our behalf.

That insurmountable Everest is captured in the 2-line hymn, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The gospel story isn’t primarily about self-improvement, everybody getting along better, having healthier self-esteem, or a million other mini-challenges. It’s a far grander story about what the triune God will do for rebellious humans to defeat their greatest enemy by grace.

In short, Jesus overcame the giant of death. That’s a compelling story with a ‘challenge-to-overcome’ score of 11 on a Newton scale of 1-to-10!

Recap: How to Get More Supporters Reading More of Your Emails

Here’s a quick recap for you.

You have lots of amazing stories to share with supporters. We’re all addicted to great stories. We can’t help it. We’re wired for story—including your supporters.

So your job is to document your stories and become a better storyteller by framing your stories around a challenge.

Do this consistently. And over time, you’ll train your supporters. With every email, they’ll know you will draw them in with a great story. Then take it up a notch and thank them for their role in overcoming these challenges with you!

Try this out for the next several months and see what happens. Your supporters will love you for it.


This article originally appeared on Robby’s My DIY Support Raising Website blog.

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