7 phrases your donors want to hear 

The Brief
It’s a question every fundraising team should ask, though many don’t: What do our donors want to hear from us? Communicating the right information at the right time strengthens relationships and keeps donors coming back. Here are seven phrases to keep in mind as you create your 2015 donor communication strategy. 

nonprofit fundraising

Until recently, it wasn’t easy to identify the most critical elements of this kind of dialogue–what do our donors want to hear from us? Fortunately, data science has begun to provide some insight into the type of messaging that increases the value donors place on your relationship and, in turn, the duration of that relationship. Here are seven key phrases you should be incorporating into your donor communications to help boost giving and retention.

1.      “There’s a problem you can help solve.”

Of course, touchy-feely stories aren’t enough. A 2012 study by Cygnus Applied Research revealed that most donors do online research before opening their wallets. What they’re looking for is evidence that an organization can actually create change. A moving story is a great hook, but donors want to see graphs, charts and statistics—in other words, data—before they commit their support.

2.      “Here’s how.”

To maximize donations, organizations must first understand the emotions behind the motivation to give, says Velma Hutchins, nonprofit account executive at Relationship Science. Then, appeal to those emotions through stories connected to your mission, highlighting the need your organization addresses.

3.      “This is what your dollars are doing.”

When it comes to retaining existing donors, it’s crucial to offer regular updates and information about the impact of their gifts. “It all comes down to engaging with your donors,” says Hutchins, “whether that’s the monthly, yearly or one-time donor.” Show them you care about your relationship with them, and they’ll care, too.

4.      “Here’s how we operate.”

In the Center for Effective Philanthropy survey cited earlier, researchers found that the “integrity and trustworthiness” of an organization was the single highest predictor of its donors’ satisfaction. “When people hear about behemoth organizations that are hiring all these consultants and overpaying their executives,” says Hutchins, “that’s where trust issues come up,” Open up your operations and increase your transparency. Your donors will appreciate it and be more willing to give again.

5.      “What do you think?”

Offering your donors a voice is a powerful tool for stewardship. That means two-way dialogue in addition to all those e-blasts, newsletters and phone campaigns. According to a Center for Effective Philanthropy survey, responsiveness of foundation staff was one of the top four reasons donors gave for their satisfaction. By making donors feel heard, and quickly responding to questions, complaints or requests for assistance, nonprofits foster donor empowerment, which drives future giving. And remember, these are individuals who want to be seen as such, so while social media offers one way to engage, opt for one-on-one time whenever possible.

6.      “If you’d like to opt out…”

“You know how frustrating it is when you can’t find the unsubscribe button for a retail newsletter?” Hutchins asks. “You don’t want your nonprofit to be compared to that.” Communication is important, but being a nuisance can kill your relationship. Give donors a clear and simple way to opt-out of weekly or monthly updates that might clutter up their email or mailboxes.

7. “Thank you.”

It may sound obvious, but a simple message of gratitude can go a long way with donors, and increase the lifetime value of your relationship. Remember that philanthropy fills an emotional need for donors; appreciation is part of that need. Thanking your donors keeps your organization top of mind while reinforcing the importance of your connection. It’s easy and effective.


RelSci provides a relationship capital platform that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. For more recommendations on donor communication and multi-channel marketing strategies,

download our new white paper


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *