Marketing and Communications

Donor Stories in Marketing—To Use or Not to Use?

Claudine Donikian

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 11:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.


The planned giving industry assumes that donor stories are an effective way to inspire other donors and to increase engagement, including response, in marketing materials. There has been no formal, large-scale research study conducted on planned giving marketing materials to support or counter those assumptions—until now. The Pentera research study to be presented analyzes two key metrics: the click-through rate and the response rate in tens of thousands of e-newsletters that went to millions of prospective donors over several years. The study includes one surprising key finding: certain types of donor stories can actually decrease response rates. Based on the findings of the study, we will recommend when to use donor stories in marketing materials and when not to, as well as what types to avoid. Attendees will receive guidelines for writing effective donor stories and using donor blurbs to get the best response rates possible.

Learning Objectives

  1. Discover the impact donor stories have on click-through and response rates.
  2. Learn what makes a donor story effective—or ineffective.
  3. Explore guidelines for writing effective donor stories.


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Claudine Donikian

President/CEO, Pentera, Inc.

Claudine A. Donikian is president/CEO and chief marketing officer of Pentera, Inc., and is regarded as a national expert in planned giving marketing. She is a sought-after speaker on the planned giving and AFP circuits and writes and conducts training modules for Pentera training seminars. As Pentera's chief marketing officer, she is editor-in-chief for client marketing content and personally consults with a select group of Pentera's clients on their marketing strategy and execution. One of Claudine's professional areas of expertise is women in philanthropy, and she serves as a member of the advisory board for the prestigious Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She also has served as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP). Claudine oversees all aspects of Pentera's business and marketing strategies  as well as new-product development with an emphasis on digital marketing, and she recently served on the Direct Marketing Association's Digital Innovation Committee. Claudine graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with highest distinction from Indiana University,  received an MA in French from New York University, and holds a JD and an MBA from Boston College. She has served on the board of directors of the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York (PPGGNY), the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund (a child abuse prevention agency), and the Brookview House (which provides housing for homeless women and children). She is an active member of CGP, PGGNE, and PPGGNY.