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Is Your Donor The Hero of Your Story?


Donor retention comes down to this: Make your donors the hero of the story (because they are).

It’s the time of year that donors are considering their year-end giving. And, it’s the time of year when those of us that work in fundraising are honing our letters, our emails, our social media engagement content. So, ask yourself: How many of your newest donors have given a second gift?

First of all, if you haven’t thanked your donors and reported on progress throughout the year, your task of asking for a renewal has just gotten harder. Making the most of the relationship by sharing the impact of their gift is a critical step, one not to miss.

For your donor to make a second or renewal gift, they need to know they’ve created impact already. Make them feel like heroes (because they are) and do it in your appeal letter. Give them credit for all the great work you’ve done over the past year.

They have made it possible. They have made things happen. They are the grease on the wheels of your programs. They are the glue that’s allowed you to add more to your offerings. Let them know this!

If you can praise your donors in a way that allows them to know their impact they will give again.

Give them a story.

A personal story wins out over statistics on any day. People relate to people, one to one. It gives them someone to focus on when contemplating a gift. It makes your cause real, tangible, relatable, and provides a solution they can get behind. Statistics are important, no doubt. In a renewal request, however, give your donor a story.

Once you’ve drawn them in through the use of a story, show them how they helped solve the problem. Tell them how important that was for the person in the story and your organization. And, tell them that you need them now, too.

Here’s an easy test you can take with your renewal appeal letter:

  1. Get two different colored pens. For this example, I’ll use a red pen and a blue pen.
  2. Print your appeal letter.
  3. Circle, with your red pen, every time you see the word “we” or mention your organization’s name, or talk about your work.
  4. Circle, with the blue pen, every time you mention the donor either by name or by using the word, “you”.
  5. If there are far more red circles than blue, you’re probably losing donors with this letter.

Use the 80/20 rule, with 80% of your copy focused on the impact the donor has made, and the other 20% about the organization, your mission and how you make a difference in your community (or the world).

You may believe that people give to the organization because of the great work that you do. They may be proud of the organization because of your work, but that’s not why they give. They give because of how it makes them feel to give to your cause.

Put your focus on telling the most compelling story you have, then put your donor right in the middle of it. As the hero.

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