6 Ways Nonprofits Can Nurture Relationships With Donors

Building strong relationships with your nonprofit’s supporters is key to driving donations, partnerships, and even mission fulfillment. What’s more, getting to know your donors—and finding ways to personalize your engagement with them—creates long-term advocates for your cause. Read on for six strategies nonprofits can employ to nurture strong relationships with donors and supporters.

1. Understand Your Supporters

It’s hard to connect with supporters if you don’t have a good understanding of their interests, motivations, and priorities. Why are they passionate about your mission? What events appeal to them? Are digital badges an effective recognition method? What motivated them to give? How often do they want to hear from you?

If you haven’t collected this information in the past, whether by surveys, personal contacts, program participation, or responses to past campaigns, now’s the time to start! Next, do your homework on your current and potential target donor base. Dig into your CRM to segment and analyze your audience, which will uncover trends and reveal valuable insights in your donors. Use this information to personalize your outreach, beyond simply inserting a donor’s name onto a form letter. The more personalized your outreach is, the better, so use the information from your analysis to appeal to each donor’s individual preferences and customize your communications.

2. Cultivate a Community

Engaging your supporters is key to building strong relationships. Creating a community that includes ardent supporters fosters personal engagement, which makes your donors feel more connected to your organization and cause. Look for opportunities to build community, like mixers, networking events, webinars, virtual gatherings, and other events, so supporters can interact with each other, your staff, and board members and create connections. Consider an event centered around a fun activity (that can also be leveraged as a fundraiser), like a golf tournament. This lets donors get to know you, vice versa, and each other in a casual, informal setting. It doesn’t have to be a physical community—leverage Facebook or LinkedIn groups or other social media platforms to create a virtual community that connects people from all over the world

3. Offer Meaningful Experiences

Beyond sharing the impact of donors, invite them to get involved with your nonprofit’s work in meaningful ways. Treating supporters as partners and offering them a larger role in your nonprofit’s work allows you to get to know them better and helps them fully understand your mission. An easy way to open the door for further collaboration is to invite donors to volunteer. Whether you need help with direct mission fulfillment, like packing or delivering meals, reading to a classroom, or leading a support group for veterans, or administrative work, like updating your website, making phone calls, assembling packets, or stuffing envelopes, volunteering gives donors an inside look at your organization and how it operates. You might also collaborate on special projects or initiatives or involve them on the planning committee for a special event or fundraiser.

4. Share Their Impact

Your donors have an interest in your mission and cause—otherwise they wouldn’t support your work! Help them understand the tangible impact of their support by sharing stories and results and providing updates whenever possible. Equate the dollars to a positive outcome; for example, a gift of $1,000 provides books to five underserved classrooms or a donation of $250 provides foster care for a litter of puppies or kittens. You might also share the aggregate results of a broader campaign or fundraising event. For instance, if your charity golf tournament raised $20,000, let golfers, sponsors, and your donor network know what that money will do, such as fund scholarships for kids to attend summer camp or provide workforce development services to disabled adults. 

5. Prioritize Donor Stewardship and Appreciation

After a major fundraising campaign, gather your board, staff, and some volunteers if necessary and make phone calls to donors to thank them for their support. Not only do these conversations give you the opportunity to learn more about the donor, but a heartfelt thank you goes a long way towards them feeling truly appreciated. Showing your donors how much you care about and appreciate them makes them more likely to continue attending events, engaging as association members, donating, or volunteering.

Take it a step further and implement additional donor stewardship practices, such as sending personalized thank-you notes, awarding digital badges, and recognizing them on your website or donor wall. You might also hold a donor appreciation event that gives your staff and board the chance to connect with donors, or a volunteer awards luncheon to recognize their contributions. No matter what approaches you take, the ultimate goal here is to further connections between your organization and its supporters and express your thanks.

6. Evaluate & Improve Relationships Over Time

The power of donor data can’t be overstated. Gathering robust data about supporter engagement and satisfaction through surveys and other feedback mechanisms gives you valuable insights into your relationship with donors. Analyze this data, combined with other metrics, to help tell a story and identify what’s working well, pinpoint areas for improvement, and refine supporter engagement strategies.

For instance, if your data shows that certain major donors are making contributions less frequently or at lower amounts than they have in the past, that’s a signal that more time and energy needs to go into stewarding them. You can also use this data to evaluate the effectiveness of your relationship-building tactics as a whole. Do they best respond to phone calls or emails? Do they appreciate digital badges or social media shoutouts? Do they like in-person or virtual events? Use responses to questions such as these to optimize your strategies and pivot where necessary to better engage them. 

Start Connecting With Supporters

As you now understand, it’s crucial for nonprofits to build strong relationships with donors as a key part of long-term stewardship and retention. Gaining a better understanding of why and how they support you can help you engage with them in meaningful ways that make them feel connected to your mission. So whether you invite them to volunteer, award digital badges to long-term donors, host community-building events, or any other strategy, your nonprofit will benefit from implementing these best practices to build strong relationships. 

August 10, 2023

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