Make the Donor the Hero of Your Fundraising Story

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In nonprofit fundraising, there’s an important adage: Donors give to success. That’s why one of the most important goals of a nonprofit fundraising appeal is to emphasize the impact your organization makes on those you serve.

You can do this by telling a powerful story of transformation about a person or group whose lives were improved by your work, and by using statistics and other data to bolster your case for support. All of these elements work together to illustrate how much of a difference your nonprofit makes.

But there’s an important caveat: Don’t forget about the donor’s role.

In other words, don’t emphasize the impact you make. Instead emphasize is the impact the donor makes through their support of your organization.

Here’s what happens if you only emphasize the impact your organization makes without explicitly acknowledging the donor’s part in that impact:

Yes, some readers will draw the connection you want: “That organization makes a difference. Therefore, if I support them, I will make a difference.”

Others readers, however, may conclude: “They’re making such a big impact without me, let me find an organization that actually needs my support.”


By making your nonprofit the hero of the story, you’ve accidentally disempowered the reader: “They don’t need me. They’ll save the day whether or not I get involved.”

But when you make the donor the hero of the story, their support becomes essential.

From a structural perspective, making the donor the hero in your fundraising appeal inextricably connects the story of transformation with their support. In other words, there is no story (that is, no impact) without the donor.

Here are 5 tips you can use in your next fundraising appeal to emphasize the donor’s vital role in your work:

1. Include reminders of the donor’s role in your work whenever you describe the impact your nonprofit makes: “Here’s how much of a difference our organization makes — thanks to donors like you.”

2. Spotlight the programs or services your nonprofit provides that don’t qualify for grants or other non-donor support: “Programs like these couldn’t exist without your generous support.”

3. Explain other ways donor support helps: by filling gaps in funding from other sources, or providing unrestricted funds that allow your nonprofit to respond quickly to changing needs, for example.

4. Present your ask as an opportunity for the donor to make an impact: “But with your support today, children like Sam can find a forever family who will love and care for them. Will you give just $25 to help us provide a home to children in need?”

5. Use “you” language at least twice as much as “we” language in your appeal. In other words, speak to the donor, not at the donor.

By putting the donor right at the center of your appeal and emphasizing their important role in the work your nonprofit does, you make them feel essential, which indeed they are. You’re drawing a straight line between donor gifts and the life-changing impact your nonprofit has had on the specific person or group you featured in your story — and by extension, the people the donor can help with their next gift.


On average, new IPM clients see a 34.8% increase in direct mail fundraising acquisition response rates within the first year of working with us. Want to learn more?

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