Donor Relations: 8 Best practices for your Nonprofit

January 23, 2019 - 8 minutes read

When it comes to donors, nonprofits simply have to focus on the relationships they share with them. Whether it’s establishing a relationship with a new donor or maintaining bonds with long-time donors, if your organization puts time and effort into actually sustaining these ties, the rewards are going to be manifold and consistent.

A simple way of thinking about donor relations is summed up (in a way) by this quote by Clint Eastwood here: “What you put into life is what you get out of it.”

But let’s modify it a little for relevance: “What you put into l̶i̶f̶e̶ your donor relationships is what you get out of it.”

So to sum up, if you aren’t working on your relationship with your donor, don’t expect them to stick around.

While nonprofits think of relationship-building as some super complicated process involving heavy planning or strategizing, that isn’t necessarily true. By sticking to a few best practices, you can easily build solid relationships with your benefactors. Let’s look at what they are.

Communicating Consistently

Regular communication is the key to any successful relationship. By regularly establishing contact with your donors, you ensure that you stay on top of their minds so they don’t forget you or your cause.

This is especially important in today’s world where people are bombarded by notifications from similar-minded organizations through texts, emails, and on social media. Whether it’s for giving them more information about your mission, soliciting a donation, or simply thanking them for their contributions, make sure they hear from you through personal channels of communication. This will help them think of you as a friendly and attentive figure in their lives who checks in with them or has something new to offer them on a periodic basis. Out of sight is out of mind, so ensure your relationship doesn’t fall to this mistake.

Offering them Different Ways of Involvement

If you only ask your donors for money, they’re going to get irked; thinking that your organization treats them as nothing more than a money bank. What you should be doing is offering your donors different ways of getting involved with your cause: volunteering, peer-to-peer fundraising, signing petitions, attending rallies…there’s so much they can help you with! Giving these opportunities is an important aspect in relationship building since it brings contributors closer to your cause in ways that don’t involve monetary transactions. It also gives them a good understanding of the ground realities of reaching your goals.

Express Gratitude

Thanking someone for their work or contribution is an essential way of expressing your appreciation and also makes them feel valued. Express gratitude towards your donors whenever they help you, even if the work they did or the money they contributed wasn’t very significant. Whether you make a heartfelt phone call, send a handwritten note, or go all out and throw a party for your donors, remember, it’s the thought that counts. Donors will certainly remember the fact that your organization appreciates them, which in turn nurtures the emotional bond you share with them.

Collect Feedback regularly

Getting donors’ opinion about your nonprofit: what they think you’re doing great, what they feel you can improve upon, etc and then actively working to implement it is a great way to boost your relationship. It shows that you not only listen to suggestions and inputs, but consistently act on them. It’s simple human psychology really—when you know that your voice is being heard, you feel trusted and respected— which is exactly what you want your donors to be feeling.

Make their Donation Experience a great one

This tip is crucial towards maintaining that strong bond with your donor. Even if you’re doing everything else right but donors are having a terrible experience when donating, it is likely to sour your relationship. Make sure that they have a smooth experience throughout the donation process whether it’s using the right tools or having an optimally designed website and donation forms. After all, you don’t want something as trivial and fixable as a slow webpage or donation form that isn’t mobile optimized to hamper your relationship with your donor, right?

Mention Impact

A majority of donors want to know where their money is going. This is a simple human response—if I give you my money, I definitely want to know that it’s being used for its intended purpose. So make sure that the impact of donor contributions is highlighted in your communications with your donors. Impact stories have the power to evoke emotional responses in viewers. And if the donor knows that a certain goal (which they feel passionate about) was achieved because of them, they’re going to feel proud of their and your achievement which is a win-win situation.

Donor Recognition

Recognizing donor contributions is just another way of thanking your donors. Whether you’re acknowledging their support by mentioning their name on your website or by sending them a gift, recognition is a step in the right direction to relationship-building. It’s a simple yet effective way of rewarding donor loyalty and giving them a friendly shout-out for their work. Being recognized serves to motivate donors to continue being associated with you and your cause.

Being Honest and Clear

The last point here is to remain sincere and transparent throughout your relationship. Whether you’re interacting with them to solicit a donation, thanking them, or asking if they’d like to volunteer, be sincere and honest in your communications. Don’t try reaching out to them with half-truths or a false rosy picture. If there are major barriers impeding your cause, tell your donors. They’d certainly appreciate the truth even if it isn’t very pleasant, as opposed to a lie which gets exposed at a later stage in your relationship. Also be sure to use simple language instead of complicated jargon so that people can understand you and don’t feel intimidated.

Your bond with your donor is a valuable aspect towards achieving your goals, so you can’t afford to neglect it. Follow these best practices to get the most out of your relationship, so that it stays strong and healthy with overarching benefits in the long run.

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