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There are two crucial components to earning your dollars and loyalty from your donors – data and storytelling. And they work together. Even the cleanest, most robust database can’t advance your cause without a compelling narrative. Likewise even the greatest story ever won’t raise money unless you know and understand the audience listening to it… and make them part of it.

Donors are ready to give, they just need to see themselves in your story.

Catholic Charities learned how a little research can go a long way in discovering the stories that move donors. Through a stakeholder survey, the non-profit learned that local Catholic parishioners didn’t really know about Catholic Charities’ work in the local community. They indicated they were interested in helping – but they needed to know more.

Catholic Charities invested in a communications program that spoke directly to local parishioners by adding a quarterly newsletter insert to the local Catholic diocese magazine. By adding direct solicitations to those same individuals, they helped connect the organization’s work to the opportunity for parishioners to make an impact. Using real narratives about local lives that are impacted by the Catholic Charities mission showed how donations directly help neighbors in need, from providing families with heat in the winter to helping homeless individuals get on the path to self-sufficiency.

Consistent, Compelling Communication with the Donor at the Center

Compelling, relatable stories paired with consistent calls for giving was exactly what Catholic Charities needed to help donors visualize themselves making a difference. When donors were educated and asked, they gave. In just three short years, Catholic Charities grew its donor base from 200 unique donors to more than 1,300—most of them parishioners at local parishes.

Are your potential donors just waiting for the right story to inspire them to give? If you think your storytelling skills could use a boost, let us help. Give Andy Scheldrup a call, at 763-557-9008, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


According to Giving USA, over 80% of all fundraising dollars are still received in response to direct mail.  It has a unique ability to get your message into the hands of your prospects, whether asking for a contribution or “friend-raising.” By those terms, you’d probably agree that direct mail marketing isn’t dead, and is still as powerful as it has ever been.

Direct Mail Simply Works

Many recipients are more receptive to direct mail than email or social media. According to a recent Direct Marketing Association Survey, people will spend more time reading a letter or even a post card than they will an email. The key is in the design and the message. Putting a well-designed post card or envelope into the recipient’s hands can be a powerful tool. Make your piece stand out from the rest, and chances are good that your audience will read your message.

Costs are higher with direct mail than with email, so it is vital that you are targeting the correct audience with the correct message in an attractive and well-designed package.

Balancing Your Communications Program

That said, in the age of electronic media, direct mail is no longer the complete and exclusive answer to effective communications. Email can be a great adjunct to direct mail, as it is relatively inexpensive, easy to produce and thus can be used more frequently to cover timely topics and call readers to action.

Email-driven web giving is a growing segment of philanthropy, so it should be a part of any balanced non-profit communication program, though direct mail will work better for some of your prospects and current customers. It is important to decide which mix of methods will work the best for your organization. The reality of the situation is that direct mail and email marketing are a perfect match for each other. Each method makes up for the shortcomings of the other. Used together they create a powerful tool for your marketing plan.


You know you have great stories to share with your donors, but there are so many options as to how you deliver. Should you use a newsletter, an eletter, a quarterly magazine, social media?

A mixture of several different mediums is often what’s needed to reach all your potential donors effectively. Just like different individuals like to receive their daily news in different ways, similarly some will respond best to your messaging in different formats. It’s best to cover all your bases.

However, there’s one important thing to keep in mind regardless of what form your story takes.

When telling any nonprofit narrative, your donors are likely not going to sit down and read a newsletter, magazine or even eletter cover to cover, end to end. Though Americans increasingly continue to read magazines, for example, most spend less than 20 minutes on them on an average day, which isn’t a lot of time to get your point across. Likewise, the majority spend under an hour browsing through all of their received eletters throughout the week.

So how do you ensure your great story gets across? If donors genuinely want to receive your correspondence, but they’re spending little time on the actual content, how do you make sure you retain a powerful impact?

It’s all in the skim-able content – headlines, photos, photo captions, text boxes filled with stats and facts. All of these together should be able to give your reader a good idea of the story, so they can choose to read further, and spend their 20 minutes with you, or go on to the next thing.

If even one article out of an entire eletter, newsletter or magazine tugs on a heartstring and inspires a donation, you’ve done your job. One photo, one headline, touching the right person, is all it takes. While, yes, your donors want that beautiful, meticulously-created newsletter showing up in their mailboxes, it’s not the quantity of the stories that they read that inspires them to give, but rather the quality of those stories.

Want to learn more? Ask for a sample of an attention-grabbing newsletter and get inspired! Current Affinity Connection clients can reach out to their managing editor, or, contact Andy Scheldrup, at 763-557-9008, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When Bishop Carroll staff and board realized that the school lacked the alumni and community support it needed to thrive for its next 50 years, they chose a marketing audit to discover how they could better serve their stakeholders. In many ways, such an audit is simply a large-scale survey, helping organizations learn their audiences’ priorities and opinions. It didn’t take long before the audit revealed the goal they needed to strive toward – more properly aligned communication with donors, alumni, parents, families, business sponsors, grade schools families, local parishes and priests and the overall community. 

Impressive Results

Because of these audit insights, they were able to develop an annual fund program that worked for them, sending out frequent, segmented and personal communications to each of their target audiences. The result? Donations to the annual fund and from business sponsors more than quadrupled! 

The Value of an Audit

Audits help non-profits better understand the points of view of their audiences, and learn which messages will move them to action. At the same time, they reveal areas of misalignment among your leadership and your audience on vision and goals, and identify specific and measurable outcomes and expectations for marketing and fundraising. Audits don’t have to be a giant undertaking; even small surveys among a selection of donors and non-donors can be extremely valuable in helping your organizing focus outward, rather than inward.

Want to learn more? You can reach Jodie Dello Stritto at (814) 237-0481 x145, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When their undergraduate chapter was suspended in 1999, they knew it didn’t mean that the alumni relations program should shut down, too. Read how their efforts have shown fantastic results years later.

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Even if your fraternity is in the clear, are you missing something when it comes to engaging your alumni?  

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In 2001, Delta Kappa Epsilon at North Carolina celebrated $2,165,000 raised from its loyal alumni base in a year-long capital effort as they reopened the DKE house following renovations. The campaign encouraged alumni to support the ongoing effort to keep the house in mint condition for future generations. You can see for yourself just how excited the alumni group was to celebrate this milestone, coming together for a huge celebration featured in its biannual newsletter.

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Now DKE is looking to raise another $1.28 million. This effort will fund more capital renovations, grow its Academic Excellence Program, and provide benefits to the house mother and manager.

Already, DKE UNC is well on its way to meeting its $1.28 million goal for its DKExcellence: The Four Corners campaign. Volunteers are coming forward to act as class agents to encourage their fellow brothers to give and get involved. Impressively, the Class of ’71 has already gained 100% commitment to the campaign.

“Our class has always felt indebted to the DKE house and the alumni before us for our college experiences and memories,” says Craig Perry ’71, one of the alumni responsible for rallying the class and achieving the 100% commitment goal.

The Class of 2005 followed suit, and gained 100% participation. “I had no doubt that we’d get 100% because we’ve always held each other accountable,” said Alston Mann ’05. He goes on to say that, now that he’s older, he realizes the importance of alumni staying involved, and hopes his efforts will benefit many generations to come.

Above and beyond the Four Corners campaign, DKE UNC also keeps its annual fund active while still raising funds for the capital campaign, to help with the yearly operating budget and to prevent shortfall in the years ahead.

Surprised to hear that one fraternity can raise so much capital? The steps are simple, but not always easy.

For any group aiming at a large campaign such as this, a few certain guidelines can make all the difference, and certain foundations have to be in place before you begin.

1. Your Alumni Group Should Be a Team

You can’t expect something to come from nothing. Your members have to be involved, committed, connected and working together to achieve a common goal. They need to understand the big picture. You can’t embark upon a large project like this without first having a foundation of communication and connection with your alumni, which is achieved through regular updates and a feed of interesting and relevant information reaching your group.

2. You Need a Plan, But Also Flexibility

A good plan moving forward is required to keep you on target. Know what you want to raise, your timeline, specifically what the money will go toward (donors aren’t interested in giving cash to non-specific goals) and why your chapter needs these funds. However, you also have to be very flexible and respond to your alumni, so that you can give them what they want. Allow them to give where their passions lie, and adjust your strategy so that they are pleased with your efforts, so they’re inspired to give.

3. Keep Communication Open as You Go

Along the same lines, as your campaign progresses, you have to be open and honest with your donors as to where you are, how much you’ve raised and what your plans are moving forward. Spend a little extra time ensuring your alumni are involved and staying informed throughout the entirety of the campaign. Boost communications to keep your team acting like one. DKE UNC knows the value in investing in a strong alumni relations program, and its historical results show that it has been worth the investment.

Are you considering a large capital campaign for your fraternity? Avoid vital mistakes and keep your group on the right track, so you can finally see the success you’re after. Check out our informative guide and give your managing editor a call.

If you interview a fraternity alum over the age of 50, he’s likely to use some of the following phrases to describe his fraternity experience: “leadership and teamwork,” “lifelong friends,” “made me who I am today.” How does this contrast with today’s fraternity headlines of hazing, sexual assault, and alcohol abuse?

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About Us

Affinity Connection provides strategic, data-driven fundraising, branding and marketing programs that grow donors for nonprofit and membership-based organizations and inbound leads and revenue for for-profit organizations and businesses.  Integrated platforms for data, direct marketing and financial transactions streamline the donor and customer experiences, making every interaction personal and meaningful.

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