Rule #3: Make Donor Communication Match Donor Interest

How do you know what your donors are interested in? Have you taken the time to really talk to them and find out? You might be surprised.

The best fundraisers consistently focus on matching their communication content and style to the specific interests of their donors. They put a professional effort into learning what their donors like and why they give. They do this because they know that all donors are not the same. They use what they learn from donors to achieve better outcomes in donor engagement and therefore donor giving.


The most productive donor communication is:

  • Personalised (use names);
  • Tailored (the content and style of the communication is matched to what is known about the donor’s particular interests, the frequency of contact, the preferred channel of communication and other aspects as required);
  • Informative and honest (never mislead your donors); and,
  • Action-oriented (the call to action is clear).

Donor communications can be quite transitory for smaller transactional gift amounts from large groups (but still sufficiently meaningful at that level). Communication must evolve into something far more personal and sophisticated, where much larger amounts are sought and one to one interaction is required.


Consider your organisation and the top 20 or 30 donors who support it. Can you confidentially write down beside the name of each donor how often they prefer to be contacted, what communication content is best matched with their interest, which type of communication channel the donor prefers and which key people (or person) is the best choice to feature prominently in most of the contact with each donor?

Meaningful donor communication has many elements that require sound planning, accurate record keeping and a disciplined commitment from all involved (not just the fundraiser).
Productive relationships are marked by good listening as much as they are marked by good talking.

I find it troubling to observe some larger non-profit organisations who structure their fundraising staff roles in terms of prescribed giving levels. One fundraiser might work with donors who give between $1,000 and $10,000, then a different fundraiser works with donors who give $10,000 to $100,000 and then yet another staff member works with donors who give over $100,000. Some fundraisers even have “mid-level donors” on their business card … which is terrible!

I don’t believe donors think this way, nor do they appreciate being categorised in such a way or handed over to another person as their giving moves up and down a notional dollar hierarchy. This type of thinking breeds very poor donor communications and usually turns donors right off!