The Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | Sharing your donors’ stories

December 28, 2015


Susan Howlett, author of Boards on Fire,  enjoys a reputation as a thoughtful, wholly donor-focused nonprofit consultant.  When we were speaking one day, she shared some marvelous strategies for engaging our website visitors in the gratitude process:

Imagine featuring a wide range of different kinds of donors who’ve contributed in many different ways.

  • One donor has decided to make monthly installments on his credit card
  • One chose to transfer stock
  • One gave through her workplace campaign (United Way, etc.) and even got her employer to match her gift  (you could mention payroll deduction)
  • One decided to put the organization in his will
  • One got his Rotary Club/church/union/hobby group to support the organization
  • One organized friends to collect items for the wish list and give them as a group
  • One convinced his company to be a corporate sponsor
  • One convinced his fellow employees to volunteer for a day as a group
  • One decided to have a house party at her home and tell her friends about the organization
  • One made the organization a beneficiary in his insurance policy
  • One got her family to make a combined gift to the capital campaign in the family name
  • One purchased logo items so he could show off his connection to the mission
  • One made a memorial or tribute gift in honor of someone else or named the organization as the beneficiary of memorial gifts upon someone’s death

Additionally, you could make it a point to include photos of people of varying ethnicities, as well as young and old, professionals and laborers, couples and singles, so people can see themselves in one of the photos. Relatability is key!

Some of the references could be written by the organization about the donor, while others could be quotes straight from the mouths of donors.  Some could even be included as 30-second videos.  Some could be humorous, while others could be on the more serious side.

Collectively, these convey to your visitors that you truly value your donors, that there are many ways to contribute to your organization, and that fundraising is a joyful and engaging part of the culture.

How are you incorporating your donors’ stories into your fundraising?

Longtime Grow Report subscriber Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection regularly features their donor stories on their home page:

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 8.48.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 8.48.34 PMAnd I loved this example, from the Smithsonian, of using a donor story in an email.


One of the best places to highlight donor stories is on your Planned Giving page, as seen on this example from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: storytelling is a lifeline for nonprofit fundraising. Shouldn’t your website, communications, and social media be peppered with important narratives straight from your donors that delight, inspire, and motivate others just like them to not only give, but give enthusiastically? Hopefully, these examples shed some light on how to successfully attract audiences of potential donors with the stories of donors past.


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