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How to Craft Powerful Donor Communications

By the DRG Group


You know that feeling when an email lands in your inbox or you open a piece of mail that leaves you speechless and maybe even a little misty-eyed?


You think to yourself, "WOW! I wish I had written that," and that message, and the organization who sent it, stays with you—at least for a little while—amidst a world full of content that’s constantly competing for your attention.


They did it. They broke through the noise, made you feel connected, and in most cases, you'll end up buying what they're selling or supporting their cause.


The good news? You can do this, too! Crafting messages that motivate, inspire, and resonate isn't rocket science. And while some have a natural talent for the art of writing, anyone can learn to be a powerful writer.


Writing for a nonprofit is unlike writing for any other industry. Gone are the days of hiring candidates with journalism and English degrees—we've pivoted to a position where every professional should be able to craft messages that inspire and deliver impact.


What if writing is not your thing? Let's face it, no one took many college classes on writing for gratitude or impact. (But we have a five-paragraph essay nailed). Now that you know your career path and the skills necessary to excel, a Writing for Donor Relations class would be pretty helpful, wouldn't it?

As much fun as it would be, you don't have to go back to college every time you want to learn a new skill set. In fact, you don't even need to leave your desk!

Writing for Donor Relations is a topic we frequently discuss because it's an essential and often undervalued tool for all nonprofits. Sure, your organization often shares its stories, mission, and aspirations in communications, but that isn't donor relations.


As we've shared before—including a previous blog of Tips for Writing for Donor Relations—when it comes to crafting messages in our line of work, rule #1 is it's not about us.


Our focus for everything from impact reports to acknowledgment letters should be the donor(s) and the difference their philanthropic support makes. Keep the phrase "because of you" in mind. No, we're not suggesting you craft new lyrics to Kelly Clarkson's song or use the phrase repeatedly in your communications. The key is to use the mindset of "because of you" to illustrate a donor's impact and express gratitude, telling the donor what your organization has or will accomplish because of them and their generosity. From a highly personalized custom impact report for a top donor to a communication piece intended for a broad segment of donors, the focus should always be on how important the donors are to your organization.

Beyond rule #1, what else should you keep in mind? Here's our list:

  • The purpose of the piece you are writing. Obvious, right? But when you’re focused on getting the work done, you can often forget the "why" behind it. Are you writing to express gratitude— perhaps in acknowledgments—or are you writing to express impact? Or are you writing to convey financial or technical information to a donor?

  • The size and scope of your audience. Will the piece be read by one or by many? This directly affects the degree of personalization needed throughout the piece. Different audiences may require different levels of emotion or explanation.

  • The delivery of the message. Will the piece be mailed, emailed, or serve as a script for a video or an event? When crafting your messaging, you've got to keep the delivery method in mind to ensure it is easily digestible to the reader or listener—especially in the digital space!

  • The voice of the piece. Are you signing your own name to the message? Highly unlikely! It's more likely you are writing on behalf of a specific leader at your organization or representing the organization at large. This can be very tricky and requires both the art and science of message crafting as you adjust the tone and voice accordingly.

  • Your partners. Who will provide you with the needed information such as data, photos, and interviews to craft the piece? You should be sure our colleagues understand what you need from them, why you need it, and WHEN you need it (giving them ample to provide it, of course!) to ensure your project plan stays on track. Mentioning your project plan leads us to….

  • Your approval process. Who gives the final sign-off on the piece you are writing? And who—besides you—proofs your work, be it for organizational style or fact-checking for accuracy?

Whew! We know that writing for different audiences, mediums, and just writing, in general, can be daunting; that's why we created a webinar series that focuses solely on writing for our profession.


We hope you will join us as we explore these rules, best practices, and other helpful tips in The 4 Keys to Writing For Donor Relations. And remember, it all comes back to Rule #1 it's not about us.