The tone and language you use in? your fundraising communications can have a profound impact on both your open rates, and your reply rates.? Being sensitive to your audience and communicating with them in words and phrases they use themselves makes connecting that much easier to feel part of your community? and reinforces their choice to support you.

People are most comfortable with others that are like them- since you are not face to face, all the more subtle clues of inflection and body language are not available. That leaves you with?only the use of words to convey that sense of community and belonging.? Smart and thoughtful choices of words and sentences can really connect your reader to your message.?

As you build your messaging, it is important to adopt the language and tone that will resonate with the reader. You have ?several different categories of donors, partners and prospects that will require different approaches in your writing.? You will write to a volunteer differently that you will write to a corporate partner or a major gift prospect. By tailoring your words and sentences to the audience you wish to reach, the chances of being read increase tremendously.?

The Homogeneous Blob of Spray & Pray

Spray & pray, shotgun, and one-size-fits-all messaging sends a signal to your readers that they are one big homogenous blob to you. They are all the same, need to see the same language and images that everyone else sees.? However, by sending targeted and direct messages, you are telling them that you are aware of who they are and care about them as people more than a check book or credit card.??

Sometimes that can be a simple as addressing your recipients by name in your emails. As your fundraising becomes more sophisticated, it will be even more powerful and engaging when you tell your story in the way that connects with your reader with what you are doing.?

We all react best to messages that speak the same language as we do- the kinds of words and ideas that are most similar to the ones we use. You will probably not want to use the kind of words and statistics that an engineer would use if you are doing outreach to artists or composers.

By the same token, you would probably choose different ideas and language in a letter to a family than you would toward a large company, even if you are asking for the same thing.

Start Here

Start with figuring out ?who your donors and recipients are: define them and create a persona, a model of that category of donor.? Are they middle aged, affluent women, are they younger men, are they urban, suburban or rural?? Review your donor lists, who are they, what are the 3 main categories of donors do you have?

Who are your Donors?

  • Are they older, or younger???What is the age range? Male, Female or NonBinary??
  • Are they local, or are they spread over the state or country?
  • Do you have more women than men, or vice versa?
  • Do you know why they donated to you?
  • Are they long time supporters, or are they new to you?
  • How many donors do you have? Have you gained new supporters, have you lost some? Do you know why??

There are lots of questions you can ask about those who are giving to you; and the more you know about them the more focused and targeted your solicitations can be.

Begin to develop the information you need to separate the different types of donors you have. ?Start by asking for basic data and as you accumulate this information you will begin to see certain patterns. As you uncover who your supporters are, planning your communications will be much easier.

You will more than likely find that your donors fall into 3 or 4 main categories. They may be new donors, younger donors, older donors; they may be local or spread out across a large area.? You may find that you have 3 times as many women than men, or a lot more younger supporters than older ones.?

How To Obtain This Kind of Data

People do like to be asked about themselves, so long as it is done gracefully and is not an obnoxious quiz or ridiculously intrusive. ??As you set up your questions, consider how you would feel if you were being asked the same things. Make your language calm, conversational and respectful.

  • We want to know about you
  • Why are you here
  • Your opinions matter
  • What do YOU have to say: what kind of communications do you wish, how often, what kinds of info about the organization do you want to read and see?


There are several free online survey sites, Survey Monkey is the most well known, that are simple to set up and add to your outgoing emails, as part of your newsletter, as a dedicated email, or as part of some incentive contest or promotion.

Make it fun, make it approachable and accessible. Use simple, everyday language.?

  • Example:? Tell us about yourself:
  • Where do you live?
  • What is your age range?
  • What brought you to us?
  • What do you like best about our work/What do you think is most important thing we can do?

Write out all the questions you think you want answered, but don?t send them out all at once. Do a little strategic planning, figure out what is most important for you to get first, the most crucial stuff, and then stagger how you will acquire the rest.

  • Smaller, shorter questionnaires will work best, my suggestion is no more than 5 questions at first.
  • Phrase your questions as if you were sitting in front of that person, don?t make your language too formal or stiff.
  • Provide multiple guess answers for most of the ?questions, and ask for fill in answers for others for some variety.
  • I have found that asking for ?short comment at the end can be more revealing than anything else, consider adding an open ended question.
  • Be sure you automate the reply, let your respondents know you got the info, thank them and then do plan to get back to them at a later date.?


Know your tone

?You?ll need to craft the writing of your thank you letter to best suit which individual is receiving it. Consult your donor personas to see how they would best respond to different tones of writing. For example, you might not want to send the same letter to a youth volunteer that you?d be sending to a major corporate donor. Have your donor persona guide handy when you?re crafting the language in your letter and you?ll be sure to hit the mark, whether you need something more straightforward or more lighthearted.

Go ahead and ask them about?commitment, satisfaction, and preferences as?soon as you receive the first? gift and keep asking until you get this information. ?Obtaining this information can guide you in what ways you can communicate with that donor. Not getting this kind of data One the other hand, failure to gain additional information from them can really limit the effectiveness of any of your messages and your ability to tailor your approach.?

The result of not obtaining and responding to the information you gather can result in a continual stream of one-way communication until, eventually, you give up and purge the list or they opt out.? That?s not good for them and it?s not good for you.

What’s the Point??

You work hard to deliver the mission, run the company and make progress.? Don’t squander all that by not being thoughtful about how you engineer the way you communicate. Take the time to figure out who you are communicating with and what will resonate most effectively with them.?

Speak to your donors as you would want to be spoken to, in words and sentences that make sense to you, convey the message and call to action in terms that are understandable. Invite and include your readers by using the words and phrases they do.

Need a little help with defining your donor persona or the words that will work best?

Call today and let’s get this squared away? ? ?310 828 6979? ? ? ?click here:?


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