Fundraising Tips

Telling the Same Story: A Strategy for Stronger Results

Nothing is more frustrating than when your annual and major giving departments communicate your case for support differently with donors. Your marketing team may be sharing stories that highlight specific programs, while your major gift officers, board members, and leadership are telling the story and goals of an altogether different fundraising initiative.

Creating a cohesive end-to-end communications strategy is the key to long-term growth and sustainability success.

Not only are all stakeholders working towards a common goal, but they’re using the same voice to have a robust and consistent conversation with your prospects. And successfully convert them into lifelong donors.

How do you tell a consistent story that motivates generosity?

It begins with committing to donor-centric communications. Donor-centric communications reflect the genuine needs of donors, inspire commitment to the cause, and build loyalty over time.

A donor-centric communication strategy involves aligning your communications–BOTH in your annual AND major gift fundraising–with the stages of the Donor Journey.

What’s the Donor Journey?

The donor journey is the process of taking potential supporters of your nonprofit and turning them into donors and advocates for your cause and mission. The stages of the donor journey are:

Awareness – The donor learns of a problem, and their help is needed to solve it.
Consideration – The donor wants to give–they need to know who to give it to (where their support will have the most impact).
Decision – The donor is ready to give and give to YOUR cause.
Evangelize – The donor is loyal and promotes your cause.

Best Practices in Donor-Centric Communications


Communication Objective: Describe the problem, and use data to show who is affected and how. Offer possible solutions and how the specific donor support fits in.

Best Practices:


  • Present consistent messages using a multi-channel (email, phone, website, text, social media, etc.) approach. Note that your prospects are looking for speed, reliability, and convenience.[1]
  • Use a story-telling approach to illustrate a problem [2]. You’ll need to:
    • Have an identifiable and relatable character impacted by the problem.
    • Present data to support your claims and convey what’s at stake.
    • Use visuals to grab the viewer’s attention.

[1] Why Customer Channel Preferences Aren’t Clear Cut, My Customer
[2] A Good Presentation Is About Data And Story, Forbes

Pro Tip: DonorSearch’s AI/Machine Learning algorithm will save you time and effort by providing instant and highly predictive ratings of retention, acquisition, opportunities, and upgrade in your donor and prospect pool.


  • Use giving likelihood scores in combination with capacity ratings and philanthropy data to identify which prospects to discuss large initiatives with.
  • Describe the problem in terms of its actual impact on the community at large, highlighting individual stories.
  • Present data that convey what’s at stake if significant funds aren’t raised.
  • Use visuals that help the donor imagine the potential impact of their gift.

Pro Tip: DonorSearch provides the industry’s most extensive record of philanthropic giving and a custom profile tool with each screening, so you can compare your prospect’s interest in similar causes in the context of a 360-degree view of their capacity and personal affiliations.


Communication Objective: Motivate your organization’s support by connecting emotionally and providing facts about what donor support achieves.

Best Practices:


  • Apply peer pressure–Show that others are doing the same through testimonials (on your website, in emails, influencer social networks) from existing donors and influencers.
  • Offer impact data–Share beneficiary stories; provide data on how things were before you got involved and your subsequent impact; publish visuals (photos, infographics) that showcase you in the process of helping out.


  • Ask your board and donors your prospects know to share their positive experiences in giving to your organization.
  • Ask your leadership to give donors a high-level view of the impact of major gifts on your work–in person.

Pro Tip: You can generate a current detailed profile for each prospect in your screened list with one mouse click. Each profile contains a list of the individual’s known associations and affiliations with nonprofit organizations, so you can easily see opportunities for peer influence.


Goal: Make it easy to donate. Keep donors motivated with sincere gift acknowledgments that say, “thank you, and your gift will go a long way….”

Best Practices:


  • Make “asks” specific and giving easy–On your gift form, supply an anchor amount (“most commonly chosen”) and a place to specify a custom amount.
  • Include a strong CTA that tells them what to do and motivates them to act (e.g., a link to your form on your website or in your electronic solicitation).
  • Follow up with donors who lapse. A donor can pull the trigger on a gift that can take 7-12 touchpoints even at the decision stage.[3]

E.G., Send your initial appeal’s non-responders emails that remind them of the appeal and provide more info (like why you need the donation).

[3] Nonprofit Touchpoints – Four tips for creating champions, Angel Oak Creative


  • Meet/connect with each major gift prospect regularly.
  • Present major gift asks in proposals that illustrate how you will use their gift and its impact on your work.
  • Give guidance on methods that will also benefit them (e.g., tax benefits of stock and planned gifts, how a pledge works, etc.)


Goal: Make donors feel good about donating and that their gift is making a difference.

Best Practices:


  • Thank/recognize gifts using donor-centric language (“Your support will go a long way to…”)
  • Personalize communications by using first names.
  • Keep the conversation going by sending your nonprofit impact report, regular newsletters with updates, plans, etc., and appreciation letters.


  • Organization, board, and recipient area leadership send personal thank you notes that talk about the impact of the donor’s support.
  • Stay in touch by personally sending the materials listed above.
  • Your donors have overflowing inboxes. When your communications are personal, meaningful, and consistent, they rise above the noise and compel action. So use donor-centric communication and build the deep connections that keep donors giving longer and bigger.

Your donors have overflowing inboxes. When your communications are personal, meaningful, and consistent, they rise above the noise and compel action. So use donor-centric communication and build the deep connections that keep donors giving longer and bigger.

Additional Resources

Serving Others with Joy: A Conversation with Jennifer Oyer

Read More

NGOs Have Many Missions, But a Single Need

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How to Identify and Connect with Major Giving Prospects

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