How Nonprofits Can Turn Donors Into Advocates

Whether you lead a business or a nonprofit, you want your organization to stand out from the crowd.

And if you’re a nonprofit leader, you need to know this: There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. With all that competition vying for your donors’ attention, it’s critical that you help your donors experience your brand to turn them into emotionally invested advocates.

The “secret sauce” to engaging your donors? Creating brand-first donor experiences that showcase who you are while helping them get involved in the cause.

Your 3-Ingredient Secret Sauce

So what’s this secret sauce of brand-first donor experiences? Donor touchpoints and interactions.

When designed right, these touchpoints show how your mission, values, and culture are different from the rest. Each donor interaction should highlight your cause, why it’s important, and the unique solution you offer.

Here are the three ingredients of the secret sauce:

  • Values – the principles and ideals that drive your mission
  • Differentiation – what you do to stand out and which others can’t easily copy
  • Unfair Advantage – what you have that no one else has

Converge all three in a donor touchpoint, and you’ve found your secret sauce.

Here’s how one of our nonprofit clients did it.


One of their core values was respect. It was a part of the nonprofit’s internal culture. But they hadn’t injected it into donor communications.


The nonprofit worked in a specific region of the world. They didn’t go anywhere else.

Unfair Advantage

Because of their extensive experience in the region, our client had more local partners to leverage for their projects. This gave them an expansive regional network that other nonprofits couldn’t access.

To mix their secret sauce, they started injecting these three areas into donor touchpoints. They showed respect to donors by introducing a high level of transparency. They highlighted what made them different from everyone else on the nonprofit playing field.

The result? The brand attracted more dedicated donors and secured their first seven-figure gift.

Take a look at your donor touchpoints. Where can you inject your values, differentiation, and unfair advantage to create more powerful, brand-first donor experiences?

Sometimes it doesn’t work to infuse all three without it feeling forced. Simply overlap as many as you can, and you’ll reiterate the brand in ways that turn your donors into your biggest advocates.

Map Out the Donor Experience

Map out every step of the donor experience to find touchpoints where you can throw in your secret sauce.

No need to complicate it. On a simple piece of paper, plot out the donor journey from initial interest to thank you cards. Include landing pages, emails, and more. Select the key places where you can inject your secret sauce for big impact, and start embedding your values, differentiation, and unfair advantage into those touchpoints.

That’s the trick to turning transactional communications into powerful experiences.

A great example: Zappos used to randomly send pairs of socks to customers who purchased shoes. Not knowing if you’d get socks (or whether they’d be plain socks or funny socks) created a sense of excitement that became part of the buyer’s brand experience.

Emotionally Connect Donors to Your Brand

To help donors emotionally connect with your brand, get them to laugh, cry, or feel compassion.

Use stories with specific details to help donors visualize the before-and-after difference your nonprofit offers. Draw them into the story of someone your nonprofit serves by showing what the world looks like to them and homing in on their driving emotion. Tell simple, “sticky” stories that your donors will remember and share with others.

Show It Through Video Emails

A simple way to emotionally connect (and something every organization should be doing) is video emails

For example, send a thank you email with a video where you share a story or give a personalized message. This creates a unique experience your donors won’t forget.

Create a Sense of Community

Finally, you want to help donors feel like they’re a part of a movement. Create opportunities for connection between donors, staff, and stakeholders.

‌Small donors and large donors alike want to be part of a community. And communities drive advocacy.

When someone feels connected to others who share their passion for your cause, it fosters a strong sense of partnership. And it creates loyal donor-advocates who’ll do more for your brand than you can imagine.

Final words: Whether you’re a nonprofit or not, the 3-ingredient secret sauce we shared above can help you turn your audience into emotionally invested advocates. First look for audience touchpoints, then transform them into brand-first experiences highlighting organizational values, differentiation, and unfair advantage. Tell on-brand stories, foster a sense of community, and, heck, send your customers random pairs of socks. The result will be a more deeply engaged and emotionally invested audience who do more for your brand than you could imagine.