How to Make Your Donor the Hero of Their Own Story… and Yours Too!

Planned Giving-How to Make Your Donor the Hero of Their Own Story... and Yours Too!

You have the opportunity to turn your donors into the heroes they want to be! The hero’s journey is a universal story, because it speaks to a deep desire for each of us to be the hero of our own story. That includes your donors. Donors don’t just want to help out, they want to know that they are making a mark on the world. Like all of us, they want to leave lasting change for the better. You can make that happen for them by making them the hero of their own donor story.

Writer and professor Joseph Campbell suggests 17 steps in the hero’s journey in three stages; here is a simplified outline: 

  1.  Separation. The hero lives an ordinary life in the ordinary world until she is called out of it for a special task. First, she’s uncertain (“refusal of the call”)—but then she gets wise advice and decides to go forward.

  2. Initiation. The hero arrives in the “special world” and finds herself facing obstacles that she overcomes, and then the main obstacle appears. At this point everything the hero has learned coalesces, and she surmounts the main obstacle. Upon completing the obstacles, she is rewarded for her efforts in some way.

  3. Return. Like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, the hero goes back to the ordinary world, but she will never be the same. Not only has she changed the story for everyone, she too has been changed by the journey.

How does this relate to a donor story? Your donors may not be hobbits or secret Jedi knights, but they have their own journeys, obstacles, and legacies.   

Think of the survivor who faced down death or tragedy and decided that no one else should have to go through what they did. The person who rescues a dog, learns about the enormity of the need, and ends up volunteering at a local rescue. The first-generation college grad who makes a breakthrough in medical research. Or the restaurant employee who sees how much food is wasted and starts a food recovery program. 

Cast your donor as the hero of their own story, and guide them to the next step of the legacy they are creating. Some ways to do that: 

  • Tell stories of the people who have already made their mark on your organization by leaving an estate gift. This is a great technique for fundraising galas or volunteer appreciation events. A personal story like that would also make a strong social media post.
  • Inspire your donors to think about what their own journey looks like—their own challenges and achievements—and what sort of legacy they want to leave. You can do this in any messaging you do, including newsletters, emails, social media, etc. (In fact, we have a few free messaging pieces that you can download to get you started, like this article and this receipt insert.)
  • Learn about their individual journeys and meet them where they are on that path. This is the trickiest part, getting to the heart of the donor when you have so many donors to know. Our continuing conversation program can help you learn much more about who they are and what matters to them. 

Make their journeys an important part of your organization’s journey. They are all your heroes!