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Donor Participation Project

Focus Outward: Why “You” Matters More Than “I” in Fundraising Communications

Nonprofit fundraisers spend significant time and resources crafting messaging to appeal to donors and encourage their support. However, the language we use in these communications often focuses too much on “us”—the organization—rather than “you”—the donor. To truly engage donors and inspire them to give generously, we must adopt an outward focus in our writing.

When writing for donors, avoid starting sentences with “I,” “we,” or “our.” Instead, address the donor directly using “you.” For example, rather than saying “We awarded 10 new scholarships this year thanks to your support,” try “You made it possible for 10 deserving students to receive scholarships this year.” This subtle shift places the donor at the center of the impact and helps them feel personally connected to your mission.

Ask open-ended questions to engage the reader

Such as “How can we work together to help even more students access higher education?” However, be sure to provide context for your questions. Donors want to understand the challenges and opportunities, not guess at them. Follow up your questions with compelling stories and data that inspire them to act.

Show how donors are part of the solution, not just funders of your organization.

Highlight the change they are making possible in people’s lives. For example, say “You gave John hope for a brighter future” rather than “Your gift supported our youth programs.” Capture the human impact and emotions to forge a deeper connection between the donor and your cause.

Conversational, authentic language also helps to focus outward.

Use an active voice, contractions, and vary your sentence structure. Write the way you would talk to a friend. While a formal tone may seem respectful, it creates distance rather than fostering intimacy with the donor.

An outward focus requires empathy, listening to understand what motivates your donors to give and framing communications around their interests and impact. When donors recognize how they can transform lives through your organization, they will become loyal champions of your mission. So, keep “you” at the heart of your messages—it’s the key to donor participation.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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