From Boring to Brilliant: How to Write a Compelling Donor Profile

Image: artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Done right donor profiles can help you build relationships with your donors, showcase your mission in action, and raise more money. But how do you write a profile that does justice to your donor’s connection to your organization and won’t put readers to sleep? Here are 5 tips to get you started.

1. Choose your subject wisely

When thinking about donors to profile, focus on those who have made a real impact on your organization’s work and mission. Maybe it’s a high-level donor, a donor who has been giving for many years, a founding board member or another committed volunteer.

The closer your subject is to your nonprofit, the easier it will be to paint a compelling picture of their support – and its impact on your mission. Ideally, your profile will demonstrate the impact of this one person’s gift, while suggesting to readers how their own giving could make a difference.

Consider going beyond a single individual for your profile. You may want to focus on a couple, a family, a company, or a partner organization. Whomever you choose, you’ll of course need their permission to be the subject – and may need to sweet talk a reluctant participant to get their buy-in!

2. Interview your subject(s)

Instead of simply looking at organizational records to put together your profile, schedule a conversation with your donor. Meeting in person is best, but if you absolutely cannot make this happen, a phone interview will do. (If you work for an international organization – or your donor is not local – try Skype video to make as close a connection as possible.)

If you’re profiling a couple, talk with both people together – they will likely play off each other’s answers in an enlightening way. 

By meeting with the donor, you will not only gather interesting material first-hand, you’ll be spending quality time with the subject – and quality time equates to great relationship-building. And relationship-building equates to more invested donors and, often, more giving down the road.

3. Ask great questions

Once you’ve set up the interview, you’ll need to be prepared with questions to ask your subject. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Nonprofit marketing guru Kivi Leroux Miller has put together a great list of Interview Questions to Help You Write Great Donor, Volunteer and Client Profiles for Your Newsletters. 

Kivi’s suggestions are open-ended questions that focus on your donor’s connection to your nonprofit, allowing you to showcase your work and mission. And, answers to Kivi’s questions will set you up for success with number 4 below. 

4. Tell a great story

Your donor profile needs to be less a list of facts about your subject and more a human-interest story. Stories pull people in, tug at heartstrings, and are more easily remembered than a list of facts or statistics. 

The best stories show your protagonist (subject) overcoming an obstacle to reach a goal. You can read more about storytelling here. Or Google, “how to tell a good story,” to find a slew of articles on the subject.

5. Use a photo

A picture paints a thousand words, right? When your readers see a photo of the person whose story is being told, they’ll relate that much better to the person. And while a standard headshot is fine if that’s all you have, the best photos will show a connection to your work and mission. I like these photos from The Nature Conservancy because many of them show the subjects actually in nature – just what The Nature Conservancy stands for.

To help get you started, here are some museum member profiles from the Walker Art Center.

What tips do you have for writing great donor – or volunteer - profiles? Please share your ideas, successes or challenges in the Comments box below! 

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).