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10 Tips for Writing a Successful Donor Story

Over the years, Crescendo's marketing staff has read thousands of donor stories. As a result, we have seen great examples that work to motivate others to give. Sometimes we are asked, "How do you write a donor story that works?"

A donor story should inspire others who may be considering making a gift to your organization. I hope this blog will provide you with some helpful tips as you are writing donor stories.

1. Stay Focused on the Purpose

The main purpose of a donor story is to encourage others to make similar gifts. Keep this goal front and center as you write. It may be helpful to write down your goal for the story and put it on a sticky note at your desk while you write.

2. Emphasize the “Why”

In the donor story, it is essential to include reasons why the donor chose to support your organization. There is a good chance that other readers care about your organization for the same reasons and this shared connection inspires your readers to give. Remember that donors give for a variety of reasons and you want your donor stories to appeal to these varying motivations.

3. Explain the Benefits to Prospective Donors

Emphasize the benefit of a particular gift for prospective donors. How did this gift make the donor feel? What financial benefits did they receive? By highlighting these elements, you are planting a seed in the mind of the reader that he or she could enjoy similar benefits. Donor stories connect your readers with reasons why a donor gave to your organization and what the outcome was for them. Donor stories help add credibility to your organization and make the outcome relatable and real.

4. Use a Conversational Tone and Make it Readable

By using words like “I,” “we” and “you,” the donor story is more personal and relatable. A donor story is not a formal document, so keep the story light with shorter sentences and paragraphs. Longer sentences and paragraphs can be harder to follow. Be sure to include contact information at the end of your donor story. You want to make it is easy for the reader to contact your organization to take the next steps.

5. Avoid Heavy Biographical Information About the Donor

While you want to connect the reader to the donor, it is important to remember that this is not a biographical piece about the donor. This is a persuasive piece that should motivate the reader to give to your organization. Leave out non-relevant information about education and job history. You should only include biographical information that is relevant to the gift. The relevant details will specifically help the reader to identify with the donor and motivate the reader to give. For example, if you are a university and your donor is an alum who received a scholarship that made it possible for him or her to attend your school and, he or she made a gift to give back to help current students, that is a relevant part of the donor's past that should be highlighted in the donor story.

6. Avoid Political References

Some donors may have strong political ties, have given large sums to political candidates or causes, held a leadership role in a political party or even run for office. That kind of experience may make the donor well known, but there is a potential downside to featuring that donor or including that information in a donor story. Not every prospective donor holds the same personal or political beliefs as you or a specific donor. In fact, a donor may have a history that readers might disagree with or find objectionable. Be sensitive to this fact when selecting which donors to feature and when writing those stories. Politics divide. You do not want a donor story that turns away half of your potential donors. There is one exception. If your organization is somewhat political in nature, such as an advocacy group for a single issue, then those political ties may present far more upside than downside.

7. Avoid Mentioning Other Charities

While it is wonderful if your donor has given to or volunteered with various charities, you do not want that to be the focus of the story. Focus instead on why this donor has given to your organization and your organization alone. Mention of other organizations in a donor story could cause your audience to end up making a gift to other charities instead. You have done a lot of work to cultivate relationships and to get people to read your donor stories. Guard those relationships and don't let prospective donations slip away.

8. Get a Photograph of the Donor

It is always nice to include a photograph of the donor with the donor story. Bring a camera or a smartphone to the interview and ask the donor if you can take their picture. Take several shots in different lights and with different backgrounds, in case a few do not turn out well. Make sure the image is high-resolution, then you can include it on your planned giving website and in your print marketing. It is wise to have the donor’s consent in writing to use their photo.

9. Proofread

Once you have finished writing the article, it is time to proofread. Keeping the goal of the donor story in the forefront of your mind, conduct a careful review of the story. Then re-read it and read it again. It is also a good idea to have others, both inside and outside your organization, look over the story prior to publishing it. Before you let the proofreader start, let them know what the goal is behind the donor story. That way, once they have finished, you can receive insightful feedback regarding the story’s effectiveness.

10. Get Final Approval

It is a good idea to send a copy to the donor. Ask them to sign off on the finished product and get permission to use their photo. If a donor story features a donor who has passed away, ask a family member to sign off on the use of the story.

 

Donor stories are one of the most important tools in motivating others to give. Do you have any other tips that you would like to share? Is there something you have found to be helpful in writing a donor story? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

Holly Omlor

By Holly Omlor
Assistant Vice President - Education, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

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