The first step in writing a donor or volunteer profile is conducting a solid interview armed with great questions. Ask everything, taking copious notes (you want to also record the conversation as a back-up and to ensure that you catch everything).

Now, thanks to your stellar interview skills, you have pages and pages of interesting background information at your fingertips. What’s next? Here’s my process:

Review for themes/angles

  • Take some time to read through your notes along with any other donor/volunteer records/notes available. It can’t hurt to also see what relevant information you might find online.
  • Re-read the background information again, with a highlighter in hand. Help yourself out by highlighting the most interesting information, as well as the most relevant.
  • Throughout this process, keep an eye open for interesting themes/angles.

 Prepare to write a story

  • For profiles, I rely on a favourite creative ‘flow’ technique: mind mapping.
  • Once my mind map is done, I sometimes highlight important themes here, too. Zero in on themes/angles that paint an interesting picture of the person, and that also relays important information about the nonprofit he or she supports.
  • Outline. For a short profile, I actually jump straight from mind mapping to writing, but if you like to start with an outline, this is a good time to chart it out.

Start writing!

  • Time to tell the story! It’s important to weave in the relevant/necessary facts, but don’t hesitate to use some of the colour gleaned from your awesome interview questions, including language, expressions and anecdotes.
  • Use direct quotes: if your subject offered up some quotable quotes, use them. If not, use their words/language to craft quotes for them (which you’ll send to them for approval)!
  • Write with a human, versus a corporate voice. Write as if you’re telling readers about a fascinating person you just met.

Once I have a draft in hand, I go through the highlighted points in my interview notes and mind map to ensure the key tidbits are all included. From here, a final edit and it’s time for fact-checking and review!

Where will this profile be used? Online, in a newsletter or in a volunteer awards program? Throughout your writing, make a point of balancing your organization’s communications objective for this piece with the supporter’s personal message.

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira