Through compelling storytelling, regular updates, and a focus on donor impact, this organization inspires continued support.

A couple of years ago, I donated $10 to an orphanage in Tijuana.

I don’t have any connection to the children who live there. I don’t know if I could point to the city on a map. And no fundraiser – neither professional nor volunteer – asked me to give.

The only reason I donated is because a colleague told me that their communication marketing was awesome. 

And boy was he right. 

Every few months, I receive an email from the orphanage’s executive director. It normally contains roughly 100 words of text and a few pictures. 

The text always tells a story. 

A boy had a cleft palate and underwent surgery. 

A girl was adopted by loving parents.

Malnourished siblings are now healthy and strong. 

The picture always looks something like this.

The message is always full of gratitude toward me, a small-gift donor. 

Whenever they send me an email asking for money, the ask always includes specifics. Like new bedding. Or pottery classes. Or tutoring for children who have fallen behind in school. 

I can’t help myself from giving to them again.  

The takeaway lessons from this wonderful organization are plentiful, but here are just a couple:

1) When you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. When you’re in sight, you’re top of mind. Err on the side of over-communication. I would never think about them again – let alone donate – if they didn’t stay in touch.

2) This is especially true when your message is 100% focused on engaging your intended audience through storytelling and lots of “YOU” language. Their emails make me feel great about myself; why wouldn’t I open and read them?

3) Your message should not be complicated. The simpler, the better. Don’t overthink it! Simple storylines make for easy-to-follow stories. The great feelings I feel are delivered within seconds of opening the message.

4) Make the story you’re telling just as much about the donor (me!!) as it is about your service recipients. They are not worried that I, a $10-donor, am taking too much credit. They are solely focused on thanking me for my gift.

Bonus takeaway #5: For many of you fundraisers out there, the hardest part of communicating with donors is setting up the technological backend. Email software and segmented lists are the bane of many a fundraiser’s existence. 

If that’s the case, ask me about Connect, our donor (and Ambassador) communications portal. Connect makes donor communications simple so that you can make your donors feel about your org the way that I feel about Vida Joven in Tijuana.

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