How to Build a Donor Communications Plan

Donor Communication Plan
Date Published
Kate Ryan

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:
Kate Ryan
Account Director, Agency Services

Role at the Company

My role involves helping fundraisers find and keep loyal donors while making a positive impact in their communities. Every day, I apply whole-brain solutions to the work I do, using analytics, creativity, and a big dose of nerd to help our clients succeed.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love data! And having client-side experience with all three divisions of AFG allows me to rev that motor in a big way.

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

Running an apocalypse-themed bowling alley and bar. Probably goat yoga. Managing my kids’ Youtube careers.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Spending time with said children, acrylic fluid painting, traveling, bowling (really!), reading, and if there’s time after, a good zombie movie.

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

The first time I was ever in a plane, I jumped out. That one time I skydived was pretty cool!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

As a kid, my family went to Tablerock Lake for our summer vacation. We had a small motorboat that was just big enough for the five of us, and my brother and I learned to waterski soon enough. One morning, dad threw out the ropes and off we went. We tooled around the lake for a long time, neither of us willing to take the first fall of the day. Dad kept circling the boat, forcing us to jump the wakes – still neither of us would take the dive. Finally ran the boat entirely out of gas just outside our cove. Dad got towed back. We had to swim.

Get the fundraising solutions you need to fuel your mission.

Get Started

Finally, an End-to-End Fundraising Solution Accessible to all Nonprofits

DMW Fundraising and Member Benefits are now part of Allegiance Fundraising Group

Allegiance Fundraising Group brings together three well-established fundraising teams to create an end-to-end fundraising solution that makes it easier for you to reach your mission. Today you can turn to a single team for seamless fundraising strategy and implementation, donor management software, and membership loyalty programs.

Learn more about Allegiance Fundraising