How to Build a Donor Communications Plan

Donor Communication Plan
Date Published
Brett Jones

Some might think that it’s easy to coordinate all of the fundraising channels and tactics available, but given the oftentimes strapped nature of nonprofit resources, doing all of the things is a HUGE undertaking. With so many competing priorities, how do you focus your team on unified strategies and goals? How do you identify the best of the swirl of new opportunities, ditch the losers, and streamline your efforts to efficiently produce the best results?

Having a comprehensive Donor Communications Plan is absolutely critical to your success. It allows you to begin by identifying your overarching program goals then listing the tactic and message by audience to achieve those goals. Ultimately, it provides the who, what, where, when, and why of your campaigns. (And, paired with a rolling 12-month calendar, it provides a place to review history and plan for the future.)

A well-organized and comprehensive plan will help your team identify the communication objectives in each and every segment of your audience. It determines purpose – the why of your message. Looking for new donors? What about member retention and upgrading current donors? Improving stewardship and engagement? These should all be listed in your communications plan close to the top.

Your communications plan should focus on key donor groups and target audiences. You’ve answered the why, now for the who. Who are you looking to engage? Likely suspects are active and lapsed Members, monthly givers, major donors, prospects, event attendees, and volunteers.

Now it’s time to craft a tactical communication plan for each group to answer the whatwhere, and when. This is also the time to build your template, or request one from us! Here’s a sample to start:


Communication Objective: Acquisition


Direct Mail



1. “We miss you!” Card or letter: something
     that looks different than usual renew
     package in month 15
2. Newsletter segment

1. Invite to Member Advisory Team
2. E Newsletter with “this is your last
    edition” headline and renew button

Monthly Giver

1. Primary option on all donation

2. Targeted quarterly conversion appeals
    to multi-gift donors

Monthly ask in E Newsletter


Invite letter to targeted prospects via quarterly conversion appeals

E-invite to prospects who get the e-newsletter but are not donors


Under the Communication Objective list your audiences down the left side. Consider which tactics are needed to reach these segments and list them in a row off to the right. Fill in the cells with the things you’re already doing, things like welcome packets and engagement surveys, monthly giving invitations and EFT conversions, annual fund and other campaign mail, and branded newsletters.

Once you’ve mapped out your current activities, it becomes apparent where there might be room to improve. Look for the empty cells and consider using digital tools like email, social media, and retargeting campaigns, which are many times underutilized. For tips on how to incorporate email more into your program read Email More!

Reinforce a message with a telemarketing effort and solidify long-term revenue with major donor upgrades and planned giving cultivation. Don’t forget about thank you letters and tax receipts!

Find overlaps across channels and groups for efficient execution. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Have a direct mail campaign going out at the same time as a fundraising email? Integrate the message and creative to reinforce the message. It’ll increase the chance that the recipient will respond to one or the other.

Your donor communications plan should be a flexible and evolving document that helps you and your team meet your goals. My next post on this topic will address the ever-important aspect of time as it pertains to the plan. Stay tuned!

About the Author:
Brett Jones
Vice President of Client Management, Agency Services

Role at the Company

I lead the Agency Services Client Management team. I challenge the team to continually improve our strategy, creative and service, and develop new ideas, so we can provide better solutions and outcomes to our clients.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love fundraising! In my career I have had the chance to work with many different organizations that are doing incredible work and really making a difference. I enjoy helping them meet and exceed their goals so they can advance their missions. 

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

I have always wanted to work with non-profits and love fundraising. It’s my way of contributing to the greater good. I can’t imagine what else I would do!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I love reading, ice skating, and going to the beach in the summer, but most of I love spending time with my daughter.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Brett is my middle name. I’m actually Sara Brett. But don’t call me Sara if you want me to answer!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

I remember the first time I rode a bike without training wheels. I was so proud of myself. I was so excited to visit my neighborhood friends by myself.

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