This is the seventh post in a special 12-part monthly series — Powerful Nonprofit Stories: Finding, Framing, and Finishing. Read Jennifer’s previous posts in the series – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.
Imagine you called one of your top donors, and the conversation went this way:
YOU: Hello, Mrs. Donor? I’m calling from Organization ABC.
DONOR: Can I help you with something?
YOU: Nope, I’m good.
That wouldn’t be an effective call. There needs to be a point for the donor — a raison d’être. A call to action.
The same holds true in storytelling. Stories, of course, are a fantastic way to show the impact of donor giving. They work well to affirm the donor and make her feel heroic. And, they should include a call to action.
To see how well nonprofits are using calls to action in their donor newsletter stories, I decided to conduct a very informal audit. I dug into my pile of samples and chose three donor newsletters from three different nonprofit sectors. I noted the number of pages, the number of impact stories, the number of calls to action (excluding planned giving content), and the number of times “YOU” was used in headlines. After all, a good call to action is all about the donor. The stories should be, too.
The chart below shows what I found:
The social services donor newsletter included one impact story. The other three pages were filled with events, updates about the organization, a planned giving sidebar, and an honor roll of volunteers. The nonprofit gets points for including a reply form within the newsletter — and that’s where the call to action was, which asked the donor to send a gift.
The animal welfare donor newsletter was a hefty 12 pages, with only one impact story. With so many amazing animal rescue stories that donors helped to make happen, I was surprised at the lack of donor-focused content. Most of the pages were centered on the organization — events, ads, honors, and kudos. These are all the things a nonprofit finds important, but not necessarily donors. There was one call to action, and it was on a reply envelope included in the newsletter.
The community/religious newsletter was the longest and had three impact stories. Points there for making me feel like my gift is doing something! But even with 16 pages, there were only two calls to action — one at the end of an impact story asking for me to make another difference, and one in the embedded response form/reply envelope.
As far as affirmation techniques that make donors feel like rock stars? ZERO of the newsletters used the word “YOU” in any headline. Out of 32 pages worth of content, there was not one headline geared toward the audience: donors.
So what’s the takeaway? If you want to raise more funds through stories, do these three things:
- Share impact stories so donors can read how their gifts are making a direct difference.
- Use YOU in headlines so donors feel like heroes.
- Include multiple calls to action that ask for gifts.
Next month in part seven of this series: What’s in it for me?
Jennifer Miller has 21 years of experience in direct response. She’s worked for 10 years as a Creative Director at TrueSense Marketing (www.TrueSense.com, www.linkedin.com/company/truesense-marketing; @TrueSenseMktg), helping nonprofits raise more funds through donor-centered strategies. With a Master’s in journalism and hundreds of published articles, Jennifer is in her element when she’s getting a story firsthand. Her secret? She likes to talk to people, and her goal is to get them to talk back! (Note: This doesn’t always work when it comes to rescued pets at animal welfare organizations.)