To Utilize or Not to Utilize: Donor Profiles | npENGAGE

To Utilize or Not to Utilize: Donor Profiles

By on Sep 15, 2010


There’s been talk recently about the value of donor profiles in our non-profit communications.  Often we see them employed as a tactic to cultivate our constituents to make legacy (or planned) gifts.  The question under discussion:  “Do donor profiles work to encourage or inspire others to make similar gifts?”  The answer varies.  Consider these points and determine if your donor stories could be better:

  1. People easily relate to people like themselves – in age, looks, life stage and financial situation.
    1. If this is true, who are you profiling in your communications?
    2. Do you have a clear picture of your organization’s annual, major and planned giving donor set or sets?  Maybe you have more than one.
  2. The primary reason people make gifts is to impact their community and make it a better place or keep its resources intact.
    1. Do your donor profiles focus on the impact of the gift in your community or on the financial benefits of the gift instead?
    2. Do you include visual components that tell the story?
    3. Does a picture of your donor sitting in a chair with a non-descript background impart mission fulfillment or would an image of the donor involved in a component of your mission tell a more effective story?
  3. Attention span is shorter than you think:  20-seconds for online copy and an average of 1.2 seconds when scanning a newspaper headline.
    1. Does your headline or topic sentence draw people in or does it send them away?
    2. Do you proactively direct your reader to contact you if they were inspired by the donor story or do you just assume that they will do so?

One group of Boston-area development professionals recently conducted their own donor story self-audit after attending a seminar on the same topic.   What a wonderful idea and an excellent way to engage like-minded colleagues in this discussion!


Katherine Swank, JD, senior consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company, helps nonprofits apply statistical analytics and donor research to their fundraising efforts with an emphasis on planned gifts. She has raised nearly $250 million for mission funding during her nonprofit development career. Katherine is a retired affiliate faculty member of Regis University’s master of Global Nonprofit Management degree program, where she taught courses on wealth and philanthropy.  Along with writing for publications like Advancing Philanthropy and Philanthropy Journal, she is also a frequent presenter for industry conferences such as NACGP, AFP, APRA, and bbcon. Having grown up in a tourist destination in Colorado, Katherine has become an avid world traveler and is exploring her way through the 1,000 places to see before you die, albeit slowly.  Connect with her on Twitter @KatherineSwank.

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