Your 10 Step Guide to Donor Communication
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
With end-of-year giving right around the corner we wanted to give our tips for writing the best donor communications to help you hit your year-end goal.
It is likely that aside from your direct mail ask you have several follow up communications planned. The goal of every communication should be to further a relationship with donors and studies have shown that it takes around seven communications to gain a donor’s support. Email is a quite sufficient tool in our digital age, however, never underestimate the power of phone calls, and follow up mailed communications, especially when it comes to faithful donors and older donors who may appreciate and prefer a more personal connection.
Read on for our guide to crafting ideal donor communications.
1. Use a Consistent Voice
Write the letter in the “voice” of your organization. Communications should always be personable, warm, and sound like a real person is writing them. Each letter should be branded in the voice of the campaign and use the same language regardless of who is doing the writing. It may be helpful to have a letter from the Executive Director injected into your communications plan, but all other communications should retain the same voice.
2. Tell Stories
This might be the most important piece of advice we can give. When you tell the real story of one who has been helped through your mission, your goal is to elicit an emotional response from your reader that will compel them to give or continue to read your communications. A story can be told in pieces, spanning communications and building to a resolution or you may choose to tell a unique story in each outreach to show your impact. Whichever you choose, it is helpful to include quotes from the subject telling how their life has been impacted through the generosity of those who give to your mission.
3. Keep the Focus on Donors
Donors are the heroes of your story, as it is their generosity that makes the work done by the organization possible. Show the impact donors have by writing in a donor-focused fashion. Use verbiage like “Together, with your support” or “Through the support of donors like you” versus the usage of the word “we” or “our team” which is organization-focused. We encourage you to tout the accomplishments of the organization, just always remember to include your donors as part of the team that made it all happen.
4. Edit, Edit, Edit, and Edit Some More
Every day individuals are bombarded with information and it becomes more difficult to gain attention and receive the time to make your case for support. The solution is to make communications as succinct as possible. We recommend, writing, proofreading editing, then getting another team member to proofread and edit, and finally crafting your final draft after everything unnecessary has been removed. The last thing your want is your donor losing interest before you get to your ask.
5. Speaking of Asks...
Don’t be afraid of the ask and don’t apologize for it either. Your donors want to help further your mission because it is important to them. So, with that in mind, how do you determine your ask? It is helpful to adjust accordingly as some people or able to give more freely. A look at donor history is a good place to start and it’s great if you already have your prospects segmented so that you can ask for an appropriate amount individually. If this isn’t your reality or there is no time for in-depth donor research, we recommend suggesting price points that have real impacts. This way donors of all capabilities can rest assured that their money is serving a concrete purpose within the mission.
6. Mention the Perks
Donations are tax-deductible –as part of COVID-19 relief, even taxpayers who don’t itemize may deduct up to $300 individually or to $600 for married couples, in cash donations for the 2020 tax year. We recommend taking time to familiarize yourself with the IRS guidelines so that you are able to give proper information to donors. The information can be found here.
7. Make it Easy
Be sure to make it easy for everyone to donate. Of course, all communications should contain the link to give online but do not assume that every donor is tech-savvy. While it is a fact that online donations have increased over the years, some donors may not be comfortable giving online so be sure and provide a remittance slip and envelope for people to give their credit card information or send a money order or check. Additionally, we recommend providing a phone number for donors to be able to give over the phone if they prefer or receive assistance in giving online.
8. Follow Up
Never rely on one communication alone to get the job done. Aside from crafting multiple emails to hit donor’s inboxes, consider additional mailed letters, phone calls, or even texts. Following up keeps you at the forefront of a potential donor's mind and is a key part of building good relationships with donors. Use each communication as an opportunity to tell more of your story to inform on the progress donors have helped the organization make in meeting its goal. (See what I did there - donor focused?).
9. Say Thank You
Thank every donor, every time. This should go without saying, but we’re going to repeat it because it is that important. Begin each campaign with a plan to show your gratitude. Following a plan assist you in showing donors that they are an integral part of your mission and will increase your donor retention levels. A thank you can and should happen on multiple levels. If you have social media savvy donors who don’t mind, tag them in a thank you on social media and post a huge general thank you to all donors in form of a video shared on social media and through email. Send cards and letters thanking each donor and consider including a snapshot of one helped through their support. Show gratitude to your donors quickly, genuinely, and often to show that you are deserving of their support.
10. Finally – Have Fun!
Helping should make everyone feel good, including you. If you are bored with your communications, it can be guaranteed that your donors are too. Get your creative juices flowing and think outside the box. Brainstorm with your team and don’t be afraid to admit when something isn’t working even if it causes you to have to shift gears a little. Keep pushing, You’ve got this!