3 min Read
July 15, 2009

Looking for a simple way to get new donors? Show them who supports you.

Whether it be in a webinar, workshop or meeting, Sarah and I often get asked for ‘best practices’ around how nonprofits are building their lists and attracting new donors. Our answers of course range based on who we are talking to, but they always start with recommending a good strategy with tactics that connect back to an organization’s mission, audiences, and resources. One of our favorite ideas to share is the use of a donor profile or testimonials. Showing who your donors are and why they support your organization, can not only serve to validate existing donors, but it can help attract new ones–who might see themselves in your profiled donors. And what’s great about this idea is that any organization can start profiling donors immediately (assuming they have a newsletter, enewsletter, website or other channel to do so).

We’ve seen a great example of this idea in action in the regular “Why I Give: A Donor Profile” in every issue of The Innocence Project’s monthly enewsletter. Every profile includes the donor’s name, a picture, a description of how they personally relate to the organization’s mission, reasons for supporting the organization, and then an ask — with a link back to the organization’s donation page.

Part of “Why I Give” profile from Innocence Project’s monthly enewsletter

I asked Matt Kelley, Online Communications Manager for the Innocence Project, about the thinking and impact behind this feature and he had some interesting things to say:

Farra: When did you start including the “Why I Give” element in the enewsletter and why?
Matt: We started it with the launch of our email newsletter in February 2007, in an effort to convey the critical importance of individual donors from diverse backgrounds on our work and to emphasize the sense of community in our email newsletter.
Our donors come from all kinds of backgrounds and span the political and ideological spectrum. We wanted to demonstrate to subscribers that they are members of a community and that people just like them donate in varying amounts.
Farra: What kind of reaction have you received to those profiles? Do people click on the donation link below the story and/or have you noticed any impact on giving as a result?
Matt: Since they’ve always been in our e-newsletter, I can’t separate out whether we raise more with “Why I Give” than we would without, but we do receive several donations each month from subscribers who click through the “Why I Give” profile.
Farra: How much time is involved in writing the profile, getting permission/photos, producing it, etc?
Matt: I spend about 2-3 hours each month to produce this profile for the enewsletter, collaborating with the featured donor. But every time I speak to a donor with a unique perspective on our work or hear an interesting story about one of our supporters, I invite that person to submit a “Why I Give” statement – so we usually have a few of these profiles ready to go.
Farra: How have people reacted to the profile? Have you received any feedback?
Matt: We’ve heard from dozens of subscribers who love it, they enjoy reading about others in this movement with them and I think it does build a sense of community and solidarity to see people like yourself supporting the work. In a focus group with 25 subscribers, we asked for open-ended reviews of the newsletter and the “Why I Give” section was barely mentioned. Then, when we asked them to rank sections in order of importance, “Why I Give” was near the bottom. I take this result to mean that it’s subtle enough as to not distract from the core message of the work.
We recently received our first unsolicited “Why I Give” statement from a donor who reads the newsletter. We were so excited that he was inspired to write to us telling us why he became a supporter, and we hope to see more of that. He will be featured in August.

Does your organization profile donors in any way? What works? What doesn’t? We’d love to hear your thoughts…