I recently completed my twelfth half marathon in the last eight years, this time on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York (EFMNY). I’ve raised money running for other worthwhile organizations in the past, but this one was especially successful, and I think I know why.

Connection. When you can connect authentically, people respond to your message. My mother’s epilepsy led me to choose EFMNY and I kept her story, my run, and their mission integral to my donation requests.

Here are the presentation and communications principles that led to the campaign’s success:

1. Compelling images resonate emotionally. On the home page of the fundraising site, I used a great informal, headshot of my Mom looking directly at the camera. Many donors remarked that the photo alone led them to read on. Supporting photos showed her with my dad and pictures of her grandchildren. Lesson: visuals are key. They immediately pull people in.

2. People relate to a well-told story. Every person and every product has a story. If conveyed with purpose and well-structured (beginning, middle and end), using words that connect with an audience, stories are powerful and memorable. Epilepsy is the disease, but the effect on their loved one’s lives was what my readers could understand. The connection fostered an ability to relate – not so much to the disease itself, but to its impact and our perseverance.

3. Keep your audience updated/involved. Throughout my training, I took brief videos to apprise my donors (and donors to be) of my physical training condition, the weather, and the state of our donations. Here’s a link to one:

This “reporting in” not only increased dialog and communication, but engagement as well. Donations came in from my first Facebook post to one that arrived the night before the run. Lesson: even if your customer does not buy immediately, keep them apprised of other people buying in, and others’ excitement. Consider strategically timed videos as part of your correspondence — they are far more personal and easier than ever with smartphones and sites like YouTube and Vimeo.

4. Celebrate success  and accomplishments:  After the race, I sent a “Victory” email & video out to all and posted to social media within hours. It was one of the most participated social media posts ever because people felt involved. Everyone loves a success story, whether or not they directly participated.

Connect. Make your audience care first and that paves the way for action and sales.