I begin defining donor-centric copy this way: Nonprofit organizations must put the donor at the center of everything.

Donor-centric FundraisingThe donor – the person giving you the money you need to operate – is the reason everything gets done.

The donor is the reason your org is successful.

It’s the donor making sure farmers in Peru know how to rotate crops for better yield year-after-year.

It’s the donor making it possible for those water wells in Africa to get drilled.

So if the donor is at the heart of all you do, then why are your fundraising appeals all about your nonprofit?

Web copy, direct mail appeals, emails, etc. often take this dreadful approach:

Fantastic Charity saved over 6,300 lives this year alone. We sent more than 120 tons of food and life-saving medical supplies to people suffering from nations in civil war, from earthquakes and other natural disasters, and from intense poverty. We’re there when people need help.

The above example is NOT donor-centric copy. It’s we-we-we and not you-you-you. Here’s just one way it could be rewritten:

Do you realize that you helped save over 6,300 lives during this past year as a supporter of Fantastic Charity? It was a tough year for many people around the world, but you made it a lot better for some of them. Thank you.

In fact, you and other supporters made it possible for us to send more than 120 tons of food and life-saving medical supplies to thousands of people in need. People who would have otherwise starved because of droughts. People who lost everything after devastating earthquakes …

You make the donor the hero of your nonprofit work. And you also specifically show how they make a difference in the world with clear objectives. You keep them informed of the progress they’re helping you make (i.e., explain in measurable terms what their past donations have accomplished). And you make certain they receive a prompt and meaningful thank-you letter whenever a gift if made.

Oh, and please don’t flood them with solicitations. You can ask too often, so test to see what frequency works best for your nonprofit so your attrition doesn’t skyrocket.

Donors – your heroes. Please treat them as such through donor-centric fundraising.


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All the rage for websites seems to be “minimalist design.” That’s all fine and dandy. But any trend can get carried too far.

And I think it’s going too far when you expect web visitors (your donors, members, prospects, etc.) to fill in all the blanks. To expect them to jump tall buildings in a single bound as they miraculously fill in all the blanks about what you do … why you do it … and how they can make a difference.

Because more often than not, your web visitors will crash and burn instead of successfully making the jump. The reality is that they can’t make the jump from one abstract concept to another. And that means you lose revenue.

In other words, you still need enough compelling copy. And just to be clear, two or three sentences surrounded by large photos won’t cut it, in my opinion.

It’s not reasonable for your donors and prospects to look at a photo, and then somehow put all the pieces together to complete the puzzle of: Why should I support your nonprofit?

For example: Look at this photo and tell me the following …

Boy needs help

Are you motivated to give?

What are you giving to … what problem are you helping to solve? Are you helping to feed him? Clothe him? Reunite him with his parents? Help him get an education?

What does the photo tell you?


You can’t answer those questions, can you? Copy fills in the blanks. And you need enough of it to SPECIFICALLY explain what a donor will help you do. How their money will be used. Why they ought to care. How they’ll make a difference in this boy’s life. And so on.

A photo alone can’t do all that. So as your web designer touts the power of a minimalist design, just don’t go off the deep end. Details are required. Clarity is required. Emotion in your copy and your images is required. The muscle of your website comes from the copy. Don’t shrink it down to a 10-pound weakling.

Oh, and please remember this . . . It’s hard to find examples of well-told stories — stories that trigger emotions and make it clear what the need is — that are only one or two sentences long. And you [your nonprofit] have quite a story to tell! So tell it and don’t be afraid of copy. Don’t be a fanatical minimalist.

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How to Prospect for New Donors

When prospecting for new donors, don’t write about what you [the nonprofit] want. Instead, your copy ought to address what the prospective donor wants. That’s a great way to frame any acquisition campaign — digital or print. Let’s say you’re on the development staff of a large (or small) university. It’s time to send out […]

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Who else wants eye strain?

I’ve been silent on this topic for quite some time. I was hoping people would “see” the light and change their ways. Sigh. No such luck. The use of gray font – and often incredibly pale gray font – still prevails. You’ll strain to see it in emails, web copy, and even print. Ladies and […]

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8 Pillars of a Great Fundraising Appeal

If you can at least cover the basic pillars of a fundraising appeal … then even if the quality of your writing isn’t superb, you ought to get a respectable response. Let’s face facts. At many nonprofits people are given the task to write the appeals — digital or print — when copywriting isn’t their […]

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Eliminate Jargon to Increase Donor Response

Have you ever tried to drive a car in a heavy fog? You don’t have a clear view of where you’re going. You can’t make the safest driving decisions mainly because you can’t see well. You don’t know what lies ahead. Likewise, when your fundraising appeals – digital or print – are riddled with jargon, […]

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Christmas Dreams for Nonprofits

Here’s something to help ease some stress during the hectic year-end holiday fundraising season. I’ve written new lyrics to the popular Christmas carol, White Christmas. I’m dreaming of a gen-er-ous donor Just like the ones we used to know. Where they donate monthly, And love us truly To help our mission grow and grow. I’m […]

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What do you offer donors?

When you publish that email, direct mail letter, tweet, or Facebook update … what are you offering donors? And are you making it an attractive offer that they don’t want to ignore? Yes, your offer and call-to-action (CTA) is – in my opinion – one of THE most critical elements in your appeal. It’s so […]

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Age of the Customer (AKA: Donor or Member)

According to Forrester Research, we’re in the “Age of the Customer.” As I’ve pointed out before, just cross out “customer” and replace it with donor, member, volunteer, advocate, etc. The same principles apply because how your supporters behave … and what they expect from organizations is consistent regardless of who they’re doing business with. Even […]

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A collection of tips and links and stuff

I have a super short blog post for you this week because I’m working on some major projects with looming deadlines. Therefore, in lieu of my usual type of post, here is a diverse collection of helpful tips, resources, examples and more: 111 low-cost or free online tools for nonprofits (NonprofitTechForGood) Crowdfunding websites that you […]

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