One of the most important things nonprofit organizations need to do is build relationships with their donors. Building relationships should be front and center in everything you do. Here are some ways you can incorporate building relationships in every aspect of your work.
Appeal letters aren’t just about raising money
You may think the primary purpose of an appeal letter is to raise money, but building relationships is just as important.
Before your next fundraising appeal, send your donors an update to let them know how they’re helping you make a difference. This is especially important if you do more than one fundraising campaign a year. You don’t want your donors to think the only time they hear from you is when you’re asking for money.
Don’t send the same appeal to everyone on your mailing list. It’s crucial that you segment your donors and personalize your appeal letters. What is your relationship with these people? Maybe they’ve given once or many times. Perhaps they’re event attendees, volunteers, e-newsletter subscribers, or friends of board members. Mention your relationship in your appeal letter. For example, thank a long-term donor for supporting you these past five years.
Let your donors know how much you appreciate them
Your focus on building relationships continues when you thank your donors. Send a handwritten note or make a phone call if you can.
Send welcome packets to your new donors. Let them know how much you appreciate this new relationship. If you don’t, it’s likely to be a short-term relationship.
Be sure to also shower your current donors with love to keep your relationship going.
Don’t miss out on opportunities to build relationships with your event attendees
I’m amazed how many organizations fail to establish a relationship when they hold an event. First, give your attendees an opportunity to sign up for your mailing list. Next, call or send thank you notes afterwards.
Besides thanking people for attending your event, let them know how much money you raised, and share specific ways their support is helping you make a difference. Then invite these supporters to connect in other ways such as signing up to receive your newsletter or volunteering.
The same thing applies if you hold a charity run or walkathon. These events often generate new donors. Someone might donate to your 10K because her friend is running in it. Thank everyone who donated and invite them to be a part of your community.
Turn a giving day into a relationship building day
My main objection to giving days, such as GivingTuesday, is they focus so much on asking. Instead of being part of the relentless begging, send a donor-centered appeal followed by a heartfelt thank you, new donor welcome packets, and an invitation to connect with you in other ways.
Relationship building is a year-round effort
It’s easier to stay focused on donors when you’re sending an appeal or thank you, but this is just the beginning. Many organizations seem to go on communication hiatus at certain times of the year, and you don’t want to do that.
Ideally, you should keep in touch with your donors every one to two weeks. You can do this with newsletters, updates, thank you messages, advocacy alerts, and surveys. You’ll have a better chance of building relationships if you keep your messages donor-centered and use channels your donors prefer.
Staying focused on building relationships will help you with your donor retention because you want donors who will support you for a long time.