Donor Interview & Story Composition

Gary Bukowski Sarah Reed Planned Giving

Gary Bukowski

Throughout my career I have seen the impact of powerful stories. When we capture the story of those we are helping, and make those stories as personal as possible, we bring alive the donor's passion to give and become part of your mission, today and into the future.

You can describe all the different, technical ways to make a gift, but those descriptions don't inspire. But when you tell a powerful story, magic happens.

And don’t rely just on written stories — make donor stories part of your oral, day-to-day conversations with everyone that you interact with. Storytelling is the most important tool you have … put it to use today and see the difference firsthand.

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell

From politicians and police officers to celebrities, crooks, and CEOs, our senior editor Patrick O’Donnell has asked his fair share of questions — and now you can benefit from his experience. Patrick spent over 20 years in journalism as both a writer and an editor. That means he’s done a lot of interviews, and not all of them with friendly interviewees. He knows how to ask questions, navigate prickly subjects, and get answers — without offending your prospect and donor.

Donor Stories Motivate Others to Give and Generate Second Time Gifts

Legacy giving storytelling is the most effective way to inspire your audience. Stories carry power.

Your donors want to make a difference — they want to be a key in your winning team. That’s why it’s important to have a system in place to pursue, record and share their stories. The problem, for most fundraisers, is finding the time to do it and do it well. Donors are always happy to talk … and talk, and talk, and talk … when you ask them, “What’s your story?” That’s a good thing. As long as you have plenty of:

  • Time to interview
  • Time to write (and write well)
  • Time to track down a good photo
  • Time to schedule…
  • Time to reschedule and reschedule again
  • Time to review, edit, re-edit, and
  • Time for final approval

And Time Is One Thing You Don't Have.

Solution? Let us do it for you instead. We’ll handle the interviewing, writing, editing, and photo collecting. And we’ll thank your donor in a way that makes him or her feel like a hero. We know how to:

  • Keep an interview on track
  • Ask the right questions
  • Find the heart of a story
  • Get the details to make it stand out
  • Write a story that shines

The result? A more emotionally bonded donor and a compelling story to post on your planned giving website or on a Donor Album. (Yes, we’ll handle that, too.)

See bottom of page for using a planned giving explainer video with your donor story.

“… people have an incredible appetite for stories.”

The Secret Sauce of Fundraising Success
Lynn Malzone Ierardi, JD, CFRE, University of Pennsylvania

Explainer Videos

Donor stories can be linked to a specific explainer video on how a gift, mentioned in the donor story, works. In addition, donor stories used in Ways-of-Giving brochures make a powerful impact.

Over 15 videos that can be branded. Topics include blended gifts, donor advised funds, qualified charitable distributions (QCD / IRA Rollover), charitable gift annuities (CGAs) and more.

Are You Nurturing Your Donors?

One way to do it is by asking them to tell their story.

Related tools: interview form (MS Word Doc); planned giving conversation starters (PDF); blended gifts conversation starters. 31 Sample Questions to Ask Donors, Donor Story Writing Services.

People like to talk about themselves. It’s natural. We like to feel that people are interested in us – in what we’ve done and why, in what we think and feel. So you’ll find that most of your donors will enjoy talking about themselves. They are proud of the philanthropic gift they have made to your organization. They want to share the enthusiasm they have for your mission. And they want to claim credit for supporting that mission.

As a fundraiser, you benefit from this inclination among your donors, because donor stories are among the most powerful philanthropic marketing tools we have at our disposal. Donor stories put a human face on the process of giving. They inspire prospects to identify with those who have become donors, and invite them to project their own passion for your mission upon real-life positive giving outcomes. And donor stories go further by inspiring second-time gifts as well.

(If you want to read more about storytelling, you should get hold of Lynne Ierardi’s latest book, Storytelling: The Secret Sauce of Fundraising Success. You can read my review here on LinkedIn.)

But What About Stewardship?

It’s your job to ensure that those who give to your organization feel like they’re part of the family, pursuing the mission they love. Basically, it’s your job to make them feel special and appreciated all the time – the opposite of “take the money and run.”

Here again, people’s enjoyment of talking about themselves gives you a golden opportunity, this time to accomplish your critical task of quality stewardship. Because the process of getting donor stories is actually an advanced form of stewardship.

How better to show your appreciation to a donor than to ask them to tell their story? And how better to cultivate your relationship with them than by crafting and publishing the story of their generosity? For the donor, these are levels of gratification beyond that of simply giving – this is recognition.

Ride the Skill Building Express

But let’s be honest – even when people want and like to talk about themselves, good interviewing is a skill. It’s more than simply writing down what your donor says. It’s guiding them to the significant points, it’s eliciting telling personal details like emotions. In short, for fundraising purposes, a good interviewer must know how to get the donor’s story with all the bells and whistles that maximize all the good results we spoke about earlier.

So if you’re a fundraiser who wasn’t born with interviewing skills, are you out of luck? Not at all. Use our Donor Testimonial Form on this page to get started (there are other resources on this page as well). It’s one of our free downloads, and it’s designed to guide you in creating top-quality donor stories every time.

One way to use the form, of course, is to personalize it (with your name and organization) and send it to the donor to help them write their stories.  But let’s say 1) you want to maximize personal contact with your donors, and 2) you want to build your in-person interviewing skills. In that case, you bring the personalized Donor Testimonial Form with you on a personal visit to the donor, and refer to it as a guide to the interview.

The initial upgrade is always the steepest part of the learning curve, and with the Donor Testimonial Form you have a tool that cuts that learning curve down to size, enabling you to develop the competencies you will need to conduct future donor interviews without assistance.

Put simply, the Donor Testimonial Form is a professional development tool that you can put to use now to cultivate donors, develop effective marketing materials from their stories, and energize your career. Multipurpose tools are great gadgets, but this one can really make a difference. And it’s free.

Professional Assistance

Storytelling is an art, and a science. We’re good at it.

If you feel you need guidance interviewing your donors, we can help. We can set up a conference call with you, your donor, and us leading the interview with world-class skill and subject-matter know-how. we show you how to get the kind of information you want from your donor while giving him or her the recognition required for effective stewardship. You being able to participate enhances the learning experience. One session with us is one powerful way to ramp up your interviewing and stewardship skills simultaneously.

You can find more information about professional Donor Story Writing Services here.


Categories: Planned Giving Marketing, Marketing Planned Giving, Relationships

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