Skip to content
Luxury Brand Strategy Tactics to Effectively Engage Customers
UHNW Interests, Passions and Hobbies: A Study from the Wealth-X Institute

High Net Worth Donors: The Power of Effective Storytelling

Now more than ever, high net worth donors want more for their money. Rooted both in skepticism of how donations are utilized, as well as a passion that goes beyond simply writing a check, donors increasingly seek transparency to know where and how their donations are allocated.

Now more than ever, high net worth donors want more for their money. Rooted both in skepticism of how donations are utilized, as well as a passion that goes beyond simply writing a check, donors increasingly seek transparency to know where and how their donations are allocated.

Fundraisers can bolster trust in their organization and, in turn, effectively engage high net worth donors through impactful storytelling, executed both digitally and in-person.

James Gadsby Peet, Director of Digital at William Joseph – a UK digital and branding agency within the charity sector comments: “There is a huge focus on transparency of impact – people want the context and they also want statistical feedback on where and how their engagement has made a difference.”

This trend is especially marked once donation amounts reach high levels. Whereas high net worth donors were once content to make a significant donation and leave the details to the fundraiser, more and more they are eager to be involved at a more granular level; actively stewarding their donations to a specific course of action.

Kurt Worrell, Senior Vice President, Donor Engagement Team at Truesense, a US charity fundraising marketing agency, adds: “High net worth donors want to have direct access on a 1:1 basis to the development team to see what impact their support is having. Fundraisers need to be able to gear up to meet this demand for more information.”

A compelling narrative

Regardless of delivery mechanism, fundraisers can get ahead of this trend through impactful storytelling that both depicts the root of an organization’s mission and illustrates the impact of a sizeable gift.

Gadsby Peet explains: “Telling a compelling story is a good way to engage with donors and show them how their support can make a real-life impact. Great Ormond Street, the children’s hospital in London has been very successful in doing this. By telling real life stories via its, ‘one day at GOSH’ videos it is showing existing and potential donors what impact they can have. It has been one of the most successful fundraising campaigns we’ve ever seen. Other successful causes to have employed this approach are Battersea dogs’ home in London – it has sought to feature the actual dogs and their back stories. Meanwhile causes such as Cancer Research have moved the focus onto the impact of their research on real life individuals. It is all about humanizing a story and making it relatable.”

Where is my money going and what difference can my money make?

Beyond telling a meaningful story, fundraisers need to ensure that they can report back on how a major gift is utilized by providing concrete examples that point to results.

Worrel comments: “The initial approach may be emotional but once giving levels reach a certain amount then the approach is rational; what difference can my money make? Fundraising thus need to be able to show where the money has gone and what impact it had.”

Gadsby Peet says charities are getting better at providing insights into the donation lifecycle. He cites Oxfam, which has developed an innovative app enabling donors to see how their donation would typically be distributed across all areas of the highly matrixed organization.

Storytelling through Digital Channels

Digital plays a large role in storytelling as it allows for more personalized communication that keeps the relationship between the fundraiser and donor current and meaningful.

Worrel explains: “While face to face conversations are always the most popular and rewarding way to build a relationship with givers at the high end, digital and social media provide a way to enhance that relationship and to provide more touchpoints.”

Some transformational givers have even received personalized videos digitally, providing comprehensive data on how and where their gifts have been directed.  This real-time approach serves to underline and enhance the importance of the relationship.

Social media, in particular, allows a cause better visibility and works especially well in partnership with a high profile or influential person. This could be an existing major donor, a celebrity, or someone well respected within the business community who has a large network of followers. A highly relatable story, that is poignant or inspiring has a higher chance of going viral when shared by a brand ambassador, who will effectively amplify the message through their well-connected social network.

While storytelling through digital channels can prove effective in appealing to donors, the benefit is not one-sided. Due to the analytics-driven nature of digital marketing donor behaviors, or a lack of behaviors, can be used to drive engagement strategy.

Worrel points out that these digital tactics allow a connected and integrated approach where fundraisers themselves can garner data about their high net worth donors and reveal donation patterns.

“Digital channels can certainly be used to more accurately target and engage with existing and potential donors. One example is with historically lower-tier donors who might then be converted into a large bequest,” he says.

Storytelling through digital channels is also transforming the way that high net worth individuals donate with peer to peer and mobile giving, which is now outpacing cash.

Gadsby Peet comments: “Digital lends itself to new methods of giving such as mobile or PayPal.  PayPal for example, now has a giving fund and it is able to significantly boost conversion rates because people basically want to give in the moment and its functionality provides an easy means to do this. Mobile and contactless are taking over from cash gifting.”

Showing, rather than telling

While digital techniques continue to gain momentum as an engagement tool, personal interaction must remain a top priority for fundraisers seeking to gain attention, and in turn, wallet-share from high net worth individuals.

One of the most effective ways to engage a high net worth donor in your organization’s story is to encourage them to experience that story, first hand.

Organizations dedicated to the preservation of wildlife, for example, are increasingly developing immersion experiences for their top donors. Exposure to the habitats they are working to protect can reinforce the impact of a large gift and create an unparalleled personal connection to the organization.

While digital channels will continue to outpace traditional strategy, the core concept of developing a compelling story aligned with the audiences’ passions remains key.  In order to maintain loyalty and long-term interest, charities must reinforce their missions through tangible narratives and experiences.  The most successful fundraising strategy incorporates both digital channels and traditional means to ensure that both the story and feedback are compelling and comprehensive.