How to Get the Attention of Major Donors

Jan 21, 2022Fundraising, Fundraising Success, Leadership, Message, Philanthropy

The-Fastest-Way-to-Clarify-Your-Message Fundraising Fundraising Success Leadership Message Philanthropy

Do you know how to clarify your message in order to get the attention of major donors?

Let’s talk about creating clear and compelling messages for your organization so your words will get the attention of major donors.

The first thing you must do before you even think about fundraising is to clarify your message.

You want clear and compelling messages so people:
#1 Understand who you are and the impact you are making
#2 Become involved and a part of your story
#3 Ultimately become loyal contributors and enthusiastic fans.

That’s the progression you want.

Failed attempt to Clarify My Message

I had a failed attempt at getting a message right.

While at the foundation, we created a beautiful brochure – colorful with upbeat photos of students and success stories.

I thought we had all the “right” ingredients, and I was so excited about the piece.

There was one problem — we had little to no response to the mailing.

One of our board members was a marketing expert – so I showed it to him and asked him what was wrong with this piece.

He said, “Nancy, your message is unclear.

What do you want people to know?

What do you want people to do?

Your call to action is weak.”

I learned a great lesson that day with this marketing piece. My message was not clear OR compelling.

It was a colorful and beautiful marketing piece! That’s it.

What follows is a four-part framework for crafting clear and compelling messages for your organization.

Four-Part Framework to Capture the Attention of Major Donors

You want a compelling message so potential donors will listen and be drawn in.

Every nonprofit leader can create clear and compelling messages by following this four-part framework.

It starts with…


Who are you?

First and foremost, you want to state who you are as an organization at a very basic level.

I am not talking about reciting your mission statement. For instance, I want you to think: What kind of agency or nonprofit are we? What are we known for? What is our reason for existing?

#2 Your Problem or Need to be Addressed

Undoubtedly, every nonprofit has a problem they are solving or need they are addressing.

There is a gap you are trying to fill, a wrong you are making right, or a need to address.

Let’s look at some examples for these first two steps . . .

These are nonprofits of which you are familiar:

Example #1: The Humane Society is an animal protection agency (identity) that ends cruelty, torture, and suffering of all animals (problem).

Example #2: The Red Cross is a human rights organization (identity) that helps those affected by disaster (problem).

Without question, you may assume we know what your organization does because we are familiar with it.

But that’s not true!

Don’t assume people know what your organization does just because the name is familiar.

Do you see this?

Do you see how this already brings clarity to these organizations — at a very basic level?

#3 Your Solution

You want to share how you are successfully solving the problem or addressing the need.

You want to succinctly state your proven solution.

#4 Your Transformation

Last, you want to Identify a person or place that has benefited from your work. In addition, you want to secure their story or testimony. Then use storytelling to describe the before and after of a person or place that conveys your impact.

Above all, storytelling is the best avenue for painting a picture in the minds of your prospective donors of how your organization is making a difference.

Now, let’s put it all together. Let’s look at the Humane Society in more detail.

For example, the Humane Society is an animal protection agency (identity) that ends suffering of all animals (problem). They rescue animals from major cruelty and disaster situations and provide direct care and place them in loving homes (solution).

(Story from their website) B.B. had never seen sunlight, was living in a puppy mill, in a tiny, rusty cage in a basement, and was forced to have litter after litter. Her eyes were crusted shut, and her paws were matted with filth. She is now cared for in a loving, nurturing home. She is fluffy and clean and cannot stop wagging her tail (transformation).

Doesn’t that make you smile after first cringing when you hear BB’s story?

Clearly, make the donor FEEL the cruelty and now the transformation to a loving home.

This is powerful messaging! Do you see and feel this? You want this. No doubt, you can do this with your organization.

The message you develop has to show up on your website, in your emails, in elevator conversations, on donor visits, in solicitations, and other materials.


In summary, we will only see increased engagement from potential donors if we incorporate a clear and compelling message in our conversations and materials. You must clarify your message if you want to Get the Attention of Major Donors

Consider this message your organization’s value proposition, like a case statement but shorter and much more powerful.

Question: Will you try it?

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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