Show Your Donors How You Are Making a Difference

Do your donors know how they are helping you make a difference? Because I often don’t see good examples of that. What I see is a list of activities or accomplishments that are focused on the organization. Some examples (these are fictitious) include:

Feeding Families served over $50,000 meals in 2013.

We received a $30,000 grant from the Baker Foundation.

ReadingWorks just started a tutoring program at Eastside High School.

These are okay on one level, but don’t answer the question – How are you making a difference for the people you serve?

Why is this important?

When you are communicating with donors, let them know why your accomplishments are important.

Instead of just reporting that you served over $50,000 meals, emphasize how that will make a difference. Are people in the community finding it hard to make enough money to put food on the table?

Why is it important that Eastside High School now has a tutoring program? Maybe it’s because 70% of their students are two grade levels behind in reading and your program can help boost their skills.

Of course, publicly acknowledging your major funders is important, but what will that grant be used for? How will it help people?

Speak your donor’s language

Be personal and conversational. Use language your donors will understand. Here’s a good example from an organization specializing in cancer research and treatment.

“Tests revealed Chris had a tumor the size of an orange in his colon.” That’s easy to visualize isn’t it?

Then they wrote about developing treatments “of precisely targeted radiation to locate and destroy small, early stage lung tumors. That means less pain, fewer side effects, and faster recovery time for patients.”

Okay, there’s some passive voice in there, but it’s fairly easy to understand. The organization could have gotten overly technical. I think they gave a good example of how this treatment helps their patients battle this dreaded disease.

You need good stories
A great way to show your donors how you are making a difference is to tell a story, and the best stories are about the people you serve. I know they are harder to get, but this is what your donors want to hear.

When you tell a story, introduce a protagonist – an individual or family- and give them a name. You can change their names to protect their privacy.

Your story will continue with a challenge and end with how your donors helped make you make a difference. How to Simplify Your Nonprofit’s Story to One Paragraph 

Here’s more on the story about Chris. “Chris was a marathoner, and in perfect health, except for what he thought was an upset stomach.” The story went on about finding the tumor the size of an orange and starting treatment “to win that fight.” The organization “discovered that Chris has genetic condition that puts him at high risk for his cancer to return. We put together a long-term screening program to ensure cancer never surprises him again.”

Show your donors how they are helping you make a difference

I didn’t quote that story verbatim because I thought the organization tooted their own horn a little too much by saying “We helped him win that fight” and “Our experts discovered…” There wasn’t any mention of their donors’ role in helping them, although this came from an appeal letter to prospective donors.

Your organization needs to be in the background. Your stories are not about you.

If you are communicating with current donors, don’t forget to thank them and let them know that they are a key to your success. After all, you wouldn’t be able to make a difference for the people you serve without their support.

How is your organization making a difference?

Photo by Bob McElroy US Army via Flickr

2 thoughts on “Show Your Donors How You Are Making a Difference

  1. Wonderful points Ann! I particularly like how you've advised explaining why an organization's stats are important! I also encourage my clients to report on their progress relative to the long-term goals of their organization or cause. This helps give greater context for the donor and the impact that their gift is making on the larger issues, or how badly more support is needed. Thanks for sharing!


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