Bragging is not Reporting (example)


In our experience, most organizations don’t Report enough (especially to major donors). And when they do, they focus on what the organization did, on the organization’s role in the story.

We call that bragging. As in, “Our programs provided holistic care to 345 people…”

That leads to “Ask, Thank, Brag, Repeat” instead of the far more successful “Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat.” Remember … focus on your donor’s role in the story, not your organization’s!

Example Time

Here’s part of a newsletter story – a Report – that a client of ours sent to donors a couple months prior to working with us. Notice the bragging.

  • Our Dentists on the Road Program provides free, urgent dental care to low-income children and adults who lack insurance or a realistic way to pay for treatment. The service is provided in Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. Our fleet of dental vans provides up to 30 clinics per week.

    Last year with the help of dedicated volunteers, we provided approximately $5 worth of care to patients for every $1 invested in the program.

    In 2017, our 12 Nebraska Dentists on the Road vans treated more than 17,000 people. These people are no longer battling the intense pain and preventing future systemic complications associated with advanced dental diseases as well as socio-economic challenges associated with severe dental problems.

    Children from lower-income families are almost twice as likely to have decay as those from higher-income families, yet they face disproportionately high barriers to receiving care. While in theory all Nebraska children are covered by Healthy Kids insurance, there are many reasons why they may be having trouble accessing it, such as difficulty finding providers that will accept it.

Notice how:

  • The donor is never mentioned?
  • There’s a lot of numbers, medical jargon and education?
  • Notice that when you run into all that detail you start to skip ahead? So do your donors.

Now look at the next time we talked about this program. We told the story of one person who had been helped, we prominently mentioned the donor’s role, and we gave the donor the credit:

  • Emergency Root Canal Saved Schoolgirl’s Tooth!

    Your kind gift helped save the smile of 14-year-old Cecelia who needed urgent dental work.

    When Cecelia bumped her tooth, it seemed like a harmless accident.

    Her mother thought the soreness and swelling would go away, but the pain went from bad to worse and Cecelia begged to stay home from school.

    But thanks to your gift, Cecelia was able to be helped by the Dentists on the Road program.

    It turned out that Cecelia had nerve damage and an infection in one of…

There are a handful of things to notice here, all of which work together to make this an effective Report. This story:

  • Focuses on a person, not a program.
  • Quickly summarizes the need, then showed the donor how they helped meet that need.
    • We do this because eye-tracking studies show that most donors don’t read the whole story.
  • Directly credits the donor for causing the transformation.
  • The language and paragraphs are simpler and easier to read quickly.

Now your donor knows – at a glance – that her gift made a difference. And she is more likely to give to your organization again.

Prior to working with us, this organization didn’t keep performance results for each newsletter. So, we don’t know exactly how much the new version outperformed the old.


…after applying these guidelines for 6 months their net fundraising revenue was up 53%!

This post is excerpted from the Better Fundraising e-book “Storytelling for Action.” Download it for free, here


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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