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Mistakes Smaller Nonprofits Make with their Donor Communications

So often, smaller nonprofits don’t have the luxury of being able to utilize advertising agencies that specialize in nonprofit donor communications. And we know that at a smaller nonprofit you probably don’t have an ENTIRE TEAM that can research all of the best practices and then figure out which ones could actually work for your organization.

Well, don’t worry!  We’ve got you covered.  We want to share everything we have learned after our many (many, many) years of working in the business.  Over the course of the next 3 weeks we will share with you the top 3 mistakes that your organization may be making….and bonus, we will tell you how to fix them as well.

We start our countdown with Mistake #3: Writing about the wrong thing. 

Subject Lines, Open rates, Salutations, Body Copy, Call to Action, Design, (Bold, Bullets, Colors, etc), are ALL important and you should spend your time on these, but how do you really move a reader’s heart?

The key is to have the right story.

Whether you are asking your donors for a contribution or reporting back to them, having the right story is one of the keys to successful donor communications. 

So how do you find a great story?

  1. Spend time looking for the story of a life that was changed. Someone who would not be where they are today, without your organization’s support. Studies show again and again that if you want response, the story is the key[1].
  2. Find a story that really captures what you as an organization do best. However, building what you do as an organization around a human element is key. People respond to people – not places. And in fact, they remember stories far more than they remember facts[2]. So, if you want your information to stick, tell it in a story.
  3. Have a photo of this person, (or animal) looking at the camera. Let the reader see the subject of the story. Let them have a connection. Studies show that looking into someone’s eyes “grabs our attention[3]” something that powerful both to create a connection, and to help your communication stand out against all the noise that’s competing for your reader’s attention.
  4. When you find the story you want to use, write about how this story impacts you. It will translate to your readers. They will feel it with you. Your donors want genuine connection and can smell a fake a mile away. That means whether the story is about victory or suffering, or the joy or the sorrow, share about it authentically.
  5. The story sets the tone for the entire communication, but no matter what story you choose, make sure you share how your organization was able to help the person in your story – without losing authentic connection. Meaning, share the truth authentically, don’t “preach” or try to “convince” your reader that you are awesome (even though you are). They will see it through the story, and how your organization is authentically changing lives.
  6. If you are a new organization and you don’t have a lot of success stories yet, talk about what inspired you to start your nonprofit. And be sure to include how the situation, or person in the story would have benefited had your organization been there. It’s a powerful way to show the need for what you are hoping to do.

Your body copy can be super easy and quick to do if you really just focus on the story.

So, let your passion show and use that story to move their hearts.

BONUS: You also need to move their heads before you can secure that donation. And we have a formula that can help you do just that. For more information on how to appeal to a donor’s head and their heart check out Ready, Set, Fundraise.







Learn More about Ready, Set, Fundraise!

Discover the premier on-demand training specifically designed to help smaller nonprofits create donor communications that donors ACTUALLY want to give to.


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