Donor profiles get beyond the thank-you

by Jan 23, 2019Building Connections, Pro Tips

Child dressed as flying superhero

Everyone has dreamed of being a hero. Your donors are no different. Make them the heroes of your story.

Every charity understands the importance of thanking donors. In fact, you don’t have to be a fundraising professional to understand the importance of the thank-you note. Most of us learned that from our parents.
But often nonprofits fail to take the step beyond that, which is to make donors the heroes in the story they are telling about the work they do. They forget the impact of including donor profiles in their communications with supporters.

And yet, doing so is critical to institutional advancement.

The New York Times interviewed philanthropic psychologist Jen Shang about how to get inside a benefactor’s head.

“When they thank people, they need to make sure they are really taking a donor on a journey that this person will travel with the nonprofit to achieve some social goal,” Shang said.

In a direct mail appeal, we can do that through language.

Donor management software maker Bloomerang tells us that “you” is “the most important word” in donor communications “because of its magical ability to raise more money.”

“Effective direct mail appeals aren’t really about how wonderful the charity is. They are, instead, about how wonderful donors are. Making donors feel important is Job #1,” Bloomerang explains.

Story board showing two people talking

Part of building relationships with individual donors is making them characters in your story. Think about their motivations. Try to put yourself in their heads, and write the script accordingly.

But once the donor has made a gift, especially if it is enough to advance your organization’s mission in a tangible or significant way, then it’s time to put that person at the center of the narrative.

Adrian Sargeant, who teaches fundraising at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, said charities need to “talk about the donor’s achievement and give them the credit for the work that the organization’s doing rather than just trumpeting how great you are and hoping that people are going to give you money because you’re great.”

One simple way to do this is through a donor profile on your website or in your newsletter.

Story board showing two people talking

The donor profile starts with a conversation. Through it, you strengthen your organization’s bond with that person. And you learn things about them that you can use to inspire others.

Writing a donor profile begins with a conversation with the donor about his or her personal journey – the lived experiences that led the donor to support your organization specifically.

The objective is not merely to flatter. Such conversations deepen the relationship with the donor. The result is to give greater insight and clarity – both for the donor and for the organization – into how the donor perceives himself or herself to be intertwined with your mission.

And when donors’ personal stories are shared, they inspire other donors and potential donors who are part of a community that shares a belief in your mission.

At Relatable Communications Group, we are expert at connecting with donors and telling their stories in a personal and compelling way that deepens relationships with existing donors and calls new ones to action.

If you have major donors whose stories have yet to be told, contact our CEO Nancy Kinnally at to find out how easy it is to take your donor recognition program beyond the thank-you.

Recent Blogs

How surveys can help target your strategic communications

How surveys can help target your strategic communications

Survey results can help guide a strategic communications plan or campaign and provide a baseline for evaluation. Creating strong messaging is crucial for nonprofits, but without survey research to help us understand our target audience, we are less likely to win the...

When the perfect time is now

When the perfect time is now

One year ago, I took a leap of faith. After more than 25 years serving nonprofits, higher education institutions and newspapers as a communications director and journalist, I realized it was time for something new. I had been writing other people’s stories for years. It was time to write my own. And that’s how Relatable Communications Group was born.

The modern-day power of the op-ed

The modern-day power of the op-ed

As we seek to get our messages out through the media, the focus is often on writing press releases and pitching stories, but an often-overlooked solution is as close as our own keyboards: the op-ed. An opinion piece by someone not associated with the news outlet in which it appears, an op-ed offers an opportunity to educate and inform a large audience about an issue that is vitally important to your organization and its constituents.