Advancing Philanthropy

The Art of Communication: Mapping the Donor Experience

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points on a map journey

Use a donor touch point calendar to boost engagement across all channels.

A donor’s overall experience with our organizations is made up of many tiny experiences, which we often refer to as “touch points.” Any time a donor has some type of contact or interaction with our organization, it can be considered a touch point.

Do you know the common touch points your donors have with your organization? Are you proactively designing these touch points, or are you just going through the motions?

There’s also research on touch points to consider. Research has shown that donors need to be contacted at least seven times between asks, or they feel under-solicited (Penelope Burk, Donor Centered Fundraising, 2003). This means that you need to reach out at least seven times between your solicitations without asking for a donation (or anything), or else donors will say, “You only ever contact me when you want money.” This finding has been dubbed the “fundraising law of seven.”

We need to proactively develop a schedule of creative donor touch points. Seven may seem like a lot, but the beauty of this is that everything counts. Your immediate thank you counts. Your gift acknowledgment counts. An invitation to a free event counts. Your donor newsletter counts (if they read it). The key here is to develop a system of touch points and schedule them so that you ensure that at least seven happen.

Here are some other common—and not so common—touch points that you could consider implementing at your organization:

  • Staff update calls
  • Unique impact postcard
  • One question email survey (e.g., “What program do you care about the most?”)
  • Happy Birthday email (not a Facebook message, they get tons of those)
  • Annual report postcard (not a thick book with an honor roll of donors)
  • Invitation to (free) events (e.g., thank-you reception)
  • Invitation for a tour or observation opportunity (especially if it’s a behind-the-scenes tour that you don’t offer to everyone)
  • Email impact updates (“Your Support In Action”—send one story at a time, change the newsletter format, your donors don’t have time to read it)
  • Personal thank you video (with impact happening in the background—recorded on your phone and most effectively delivered via text message)
  • Send another handwritten note (they can never receive too many)
  • Get your executive director or board chair to say “thank you” (via handwritten note/phone call/video/etc.)
  • An invitation to an intimate event in a board member’s home with the organization’s top staffers
  • A thank you letter written by a recipient of your organization’s work (a scan is fine, perhaps with a “Thought you might like to see this …” scrawled on the top)
  • Artwork produced by recipients of your services (especially kids)
  • An invitation to an educational opportunity (like a speaker) that matches your mission
  • A quick personal email with a link to a news feature on the organization (“As one of our most loyal supporters, we thought you might like to see this …”)
  • Invite them to a town hall conference call with the CEO and senior staff about upcoming organizational initiatives
  • Offer to profile them and their reasons for supporting the organization in your newsletter or on your website
  • Mail an actual printed glossy photo with a post-it note saying (“I thought you might like to see what you made happen last week …”)
  • Let a different voice say thank you (if it’s someone fictional, like a mascot, that’s even better)
  • And the one that will have the most impact of all—reach out and schedule an update visit (“I’d love to stop by for 20 minutes and share some recent successes that your support has made possible.”)

But before you begin to refine the donor experience at your organization, you need to take stock and examine your current starting point. That’s where a donor touch point calendar comes into play.

Donor Touch Point Calendar

A donor touch point calendar allows you to map out all the touch points that you have planned for the year. Here is a sample version of one:

donor touch point calendar
 You can download a free editable template at:

How to Implement It

To begin the process, start by listing all the touch points your organization currently uses throughout the year. These should be listed in the appropriate category of either asks—mass communication or personalized stewardship.

Then adjust the dates in the template to match the current (or upcoming) year. The dates listed should be the Sunday or Monday of the week, whatever your preference is.

Finally, move the colored blocks around to correspond to when you typically send that piece of correspondence or make that outreach. I recommend using keyboard shortcuts to make this much faster (on PC, control-c for copy and control-v for paste; on a mac, command-c for copy and command-v for paste).

Calendar Analysis and Planning

Once complete, you can visually see whether you are obeying the fundraising law of seven and whether or not you need to make changes. Perhaps your asks are too clustered during one part of the year. Perhaps almost all of your stewardship efforts currently take place over the summer.

Here are some key elements to analyze and questions to ask:

  • How many non-ask touch points are occurring between each ask?
  • Are the touch points in each category spaced out evenly throughout the year?
  • Is there any point where more mass communication or personalized stewardship is necessary?
  • Can we engage volunteers to assist with these additional touch points?

The donor touch point calendar should work hand in hand with your fundraising plan. The donor touch point calendar shows what will happen and when. The fundraising plan states who will do it and how. Together, they allow you to proactively manage the donor experience at your organization.

chad bargerChad Barger, CFRE, CNP, helps nonprofits overcome the barriers to fundraising success. He is a sought-after nonprofit fundraising speaker, master trainer and coach who shares actionable nonprofit fundraising tips and free resources at

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08 Aug 2022 President's Perspective Blog
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