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Crafting the perfect donor journey is a fine balance

If you want to keep your donors, you need to build a great donor journey—one that effortlessly moves your donors through every stage, turning leads into lifelong donors.

In late 2022, I ran a Masterclass at an Industry conference where I shared a formula for creating an effective donor journey. The session sparked many “Aha” moments among the participants that they shared with me later. As you read further, I hope you have your own Aha moment that will help lift your donor journey so it can do the heavy lifting by fostering better long-term relationships with your donors.


Crafting the perfect journey is a fine balance.

It requires a deep understanding of your donors’ motivations and your ability to deliver the right message, at the right time, in the right way.

Creating, refreshing, tweaking or simply starting your Donor Journey may seem overwhelming. But fear not, there is a foolproof formula: Start emotional, and close rational.


Emotional vs. Rational: Why It Matters

When it comes to making buying decisions, humans are quite fickle. The process involves a delicate balance of logic and emotion, both of which play crucial roles in driving a transaction.

But researchers at the University of Texas in Austin found: “In our society it is generally not considered justifiable to make a decision purely on an emotional response. We want to be considered scientific and rational, so we come up with reasons after the fact to justify our choice.” Importantly, most people aren’t even aware they do it, with researchers further noting: “What is even more interesting is that people who claim that emotions are not that important, who consider themselves to be really rational, are actually more prone to fall into this trap”.

So how does your Donor Journey stack up? Have you gone in too heavy with emotion, running the risk of alienating your more rational donors? Or have you created a journey that is so dry that the entire experience feels a little too ChatGPT?

It’s about finding balance and the right time to use both.

Travelling through a donor journey, donors should be receiving a mix of communications; welcome pieces, short postcards, impact updates, emotional appeals, invitations, bounce backs, surveys and more. So that when the time is right to ask them to give, upgrade or volunteer – they are prepared and excited.

It makes sense to start with emotion because as Francesco Abrogetti writes in his book Emotionraising, fundraising is all about “making someone feel for real.” So it makes perfect sense to tell our stories in a way that we are making potential donors feel something about our work and the impact it creates.

From the same Texas Uni research, Ragunathan suggests: “The earlier you make the emotional connection the better because once consumers have decided they like a particular option, the more difficult it is for them to backpedal. Their thinking falls in line with the emotions.


Formula: Open with Emotion, Close with Logic


When it comes to engaging with potential donors, winning their attention can feel like navigating a crowded marketplace. However, as an NFP, you possess a powerful tool to make genuine impact: emotional storytelling.

To begin, dive into individual donors’ needs, wants, desires, and aspirations. By understanding and addressing these motivations, you can craft captivating content that resonates on an emotional level, stirring them to take action – a click, a download, a donation, sign-up or read more.



At this stage, you need to shift the focus of your story towards addressing the rational needs of your nonprofit. One of the most effective ways to appeal to the logical side is to provide evidence of your impact.

It’s crucial to highlight the value you have delivered collectively. We have created Impact reports, Impact appeals, Annual reports and powerful Case for Support tools for many different charities. Redstone can help you get the rational level right in your comms without putting your donors to sleep…



Re-imagine your Donor Journey

The perfect donor journey balances emotion with logic. 

As the old marketing adage goes: have the right message, at the right time, in the right way. We know after years of testing when the right time for emotion is and when it’s time to wrap it up in a rational nutshell.

Take a closer look at your current donor journey – LOOK and FIND those exciting opportunities to add more emotion or logic so that you are meeting your donors needs while making it clear what it is you need from them.

Look for messaging gaps that may exist (like those powerful impact reports or some fun, lighthearted content where possible).

To help you visualise and evaluate your journey, we are offering a free 30 min call to go through your current donor journey and offer advice or tips to help you get the balance right.

We can help you write your success stories throughout your donor journey to not only captivate but to convert leads by demonstrating the tangible outcomes of your work at just the right time.


Book a free 30-minute Donor Journey session now.