Find Ways To Engage With Your Donors

This post was featured in the February 2013 Blog Carnival

Have you heard the dismal news about donor retention?  It doesn’t need to be that way.  One solution to keeping your donors is better engagement.

Try to engage with your donors by email once a week.  If you use social media, you can communicate more often  –  generally once a day on Facebook and a couple of times a day on Twitter.

Quality counts
Whatever you send out, make it donor-centric.  Focus on success stories.  Show how the donor was part of that success.  And always show gratitude. 

Be welcoming
If you are not are already doing this, send a welcome message to your new email subscribers. Personalize it, say thank you, and give a brief summary of what types of information they will receive.

What about my newsletter?
Perhaps you send out an email newsletter once a month or every two weeks, and that’s fine.  While it’s generally recommended that nonprofits communicate with their supporters anywhere between once a week and once a month, I would aim for closer to once a week.

One issue with e-newsletters is that they are too long.  If you are sending out a monthly newsletter, keep it to a few articles.  People have short attention spans.

Testing time
Here is a good opportunity to test.  Measure to see how people respond to short weekly updates as opposed to your longer monthly newsletter.

You can still send out newsletters, and supplement them with short messages in between. 

What should I send out?
Remember to keep your audience in mind.  Also, keep your messages short.  Make them easy to read and scan.  Besides providing updates, here are a few other ways to keep your supporters engaged.

Send out short surveys.  You can ask people their opinion on an issue or something else relevant to your work.  Make people feel included.  One nonprofit I know of that sells holiday cards asks folks to vote on their favorite designs.
If people respond well to your short surveys, perhaps you could do one a month.

Here is more information about creating surveys and other ways to get feedback from your supporters. HOW TO GET FEEDBACK FROM YOUR SUPPORTERS

Advocacy alerts
Send out an advocacy alert on a piece of legislation that affects the people you serve.

You’ll have more success if you make it easy to take action.  Provide a sample phone script, letter, or email template.  You could send out an existing advocacy email from another organization, if it’s too hard to create your own.  Be sure to credit that organization.

Another way to engage is to report back results on that legislation.

Say thank you
Why not make a point to send a thank you message to your donors each month.  Share a success story and let them know that you couldn’t have accomplished that without their support.

Always find ways to say thank you.

Invite people to join you on social media
Send an invitation via email to join you on Facebook and Twitter.  But don’t stop there.  Show your supporters what they will get out of it.

Remember that social media is social, so ask questions to engage folks.  Start a conversation.

Here some ways to build a community on Facebook. 7 reasons your nonprofit Facebook page has no fans 

Share photos and videos
Share photos of the people you serve.  Not all email providers display photos, so you’ll want to include a link to link to your website. Facebook is great for sharing photos.

You might not have the capacity to create a video, but if you do, make it high quality and short.  Share videos of the people you serve participating in activities or better yet saying thank you to your donors!

Other ideas include sharing testimonials and quotes.  I favor stories over statistics, but you could share some interesting statistics with a link to a story.  Phrase it, Did you know…..?

Get organized
If you use an editorial calendar, you shouldn’t have a problem coming up with and organizing your content.  Make it cross channel and include email, social media, website, and print.  Figure out what to send out and when.  Here is more information on creating editorial calendars.  Your Most Powerful Social Media Tool for 2013 

Keep measuring how people respond to your messages.  If you are not getting much of a response from your surveys, either do them differently or find another way to engage.

All roads lead to your website
While I’ve been emphasizing email communication, and to a certain extent, social media, often these messages include links to your website.
Keep your entire website up-to-date and engaging.  You never know if your supporters will travel from your web link to another page on your website.

It’s very important for you to communicate with your donors regularly and keep them interested and engaged in your work. 

Let’s hope next year at this time we won’t be reading all these dismal statistics about donor retention.

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