How Nonprofit CRM Management Can Improve Donor Stewardship

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By John Killoran

If your organization is looking for ways to amp up your donor stewardship and build better relationships with supporters, look no further than your nonprofit Customer Relationship Management (CRM). That’s right! Your CRM is full of useful management tools that can aid you in cultivating donors.

Unfortunately, many of these features go unnoticed by nonprofits or aren’t used to their full potential. That’s why we’ve created a list of ways your CRM can help take your donor stewardship to the next level.

With the help of your nonprofit CRM, you can improve donor stewardship by:

  1. Tracking important donor data.
  2. Segmenting donors to personalize your outreach.
  3. Hosting more engaging fundraising events.
  4. Managing your membership program.
  5. Forming an effective follow-up strategy.

We’ll dive deeper into each topic to teach you how to use the wonderful CRM tools at your organization’s disposal. Let’s jump right in with the first tip!

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1. Tracking Important Donor Data

At the core of any CRM is the ability to track and record important information about your donors. CRM software can pull together information from all your integrated fundraising tools and record the information into detailed donor profiles.

With information on every constituent in a centralized location, you’ll have a full picture of your supporters along with information on their passions, contact information, involvement in your organization, and much more.

This information can be valuable at every stage of the stewardship process, including when you’re:

  • Welcoming new donors to your nonprofit family. If you already have information about your new donors, use that to your advantage to suggest other ways for them to get involved in your organization.
  • Encouraging supporters to join your membership program. Using what you know about your supporters, you can promote the membership perks that will appeal to them the most.
  • Asking donors to volunteer. Your donor profiles have useful information on your supporters’ geographic location and history with your organization that can be used to motivate them to volunteer at an upcoming event.

In addition to basic information—names, contact information, giving history, etc.—most CRMs allow nonprofits to create custom fields where they can record information that’s specific to their nonprofit’s needs.

For example, if you run a local animal shelter, knowing whether your donors are pet owners may be a valuable piece of information to have, whereas, for a cancer research organization, it will be important to know whether your supporters are cancer survivors or know a loved one battling cancer.

Moreover, if you’re missing crucial constituent data, you can use prospect research to fill in some of the gaps in your donor profiles like occupation, other philanthropic involvement, and much more.  

Keeping a record of your donors’ details will come in handy as we discuss the other ways CRMs can improve donor stewardship. Therefore, it’s crucial that your data is up-to-date and accurate.

Nonprofits can achieve this by “spring cleaning” their donor database annually to catch and correct any mistakes in your data.

Final thought: Have a record of all the information you collect in the form of donor profiles so that you can use that information to build connections with supporters.  

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2. Segmenting Donors To Personalize Your Outreach

Developing genuine relationships with donors is the best way to retain their support. Communicating with supporters is about more than just updating them on various fundraising events or asking for donations; it’s about appealing to your donors’ interests as well.

Think about it this way: by targeting your donors’ interests and passions, you’ll have a better chance of getting a response and engaging your supporters.

With so many donors to track, how do you create more personalized communications?

The simple answer is through your donor management system. If your nonprofit CRM doesn’t have a built-in donor database, Double the Donation has a list of donor management software your organization can use.

Use donor management software to segment your donors into groups based on their:

  • Geographic location.
  • Giving history.
  • Preferred donation method.
  • Hobbies and interests.
  • Donor status (i.e. first-time, recurring, or major gift donor).
  • And so much more!

Dividing your donors into specific categories will help you tailor your communications to a particular group of individuals.

For instance, if you’re hosting a fundraising event, you may only want to promote it to donors who can realistically attend. As such, you might segment your donors by location and only send out information about your event to those who live nearby.

Alternatively, if you’re hosting a peer-to-peer fundraising event, you might want to reach out to your recurring donors first to ask if they want to participate. Since they give to your nonprofit on a regular basis, they may be looking for other ways to get involved in your mission.

When you provide donors with content that is valuable—whether it be based on their interests or location—donors are more likely to read and respond to what you have to say.

Final thought: Segmenting your donors is a great way to tailor your communications to provide content that they will appreciate the most.

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3. Hosting More Engaging Fundraising Events

A huge step in the stewardship process is showing donors that you value their support — not just their donations.

The only way to develop genuine relationships, after all, is by engaging with donors and not always asking for money.

Events, especially ones that require supporter involvement, offer organizations the perfect opportunity to celebrate their donors and get to know them a little better.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the perfect fundraising event to retain your donors’ support. Plus, many nonprofit CRMs come with additional modules that can assist in the planning and running of your fundraising event.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is when your supporters fundraise on your behalf by asking their friends and family to contribute to your cause. Not only does it give your loyal donors a way to advocate for your cause, but it’s the perfect event to gain new followers.

If you’re searching for a thorough look at peer-to-peer fundraising, BidPal has a complete guide that covers the ins and outs of this online fundraiser.

When donors campaign for your nonprofit and share their reasons for supporting your mission with loved ones, the process can revitalize your supporters passion for your cause.

Additionally, it gives them a way to support your cause that doesn’t require any monetary donations: all you need from your supporters is their time and motivation!

With the help of your CRM software, you can create an engaging peer-to-peer fundraiser with features like:

  • Leaderboards and badges. Add a little friendly competition into the mix with leaderboards and badges. This will motivate your supporters and keep them engaged throughout your event.
  • Fundraising thermometers. Let participants know how far they’ve come with thermometers that update to display the amount of funds each participant has raised.
  • Enhanced communications. Send out additional resources to your participants so that they’re well equipped to ask for donations. Keeping your supporters up-to-date is also a great way to interact with them and answer questions.

Final thought: With the help of your nonprofit CRM, you can create fundraising events that will engage your donors and help them develop closer bonds with your organization.

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4. Managing Your Membership Program

We mentioned membership programs earlier in this post —  and with good reason. Membership programs are an effective way to raise more money, but most importantly, they can be used to help retain supporters.

Membership programs can enhance involvement within a nonprofit organization by offering special perks. These perks might include things like free tickets to fundraising events, updates on projects before anyone else, and much more.

To become a member, donors will contribute a monthly or annual donation in the form of membership fees.

Many nonprofit CRMs come with built-in tools to help your organization manage a membership program by:

  • Building a website for your membership program.
  • Tracking membership fee collection.
  • Creating and automating program communication.
  • Managing perks and benefits.

These factors will help you create a membership program that donors want to participate in. Tasks like renewing memberships will be easy for donors to complete and you’ll be able to stay on top of membership outreach.  

Final thought: Membership programs can be a great asset to your organization, especially if you’re trying to boost your donor stewardship. Use the tools available in your nonprofit CRM to help you manage your program.

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5. Forming An Effective Follow-Up Strategy

Following up with donors is crucial to your stewardship strategy because it allows you to thank donors after they’ve contributed to your cause and provide them with additional ways to stay engaged with your nonprofit.

Many nonprofit CRMs come with tools like email automation, reminders, and tracking metrics to help you craft the perfect follow-up communications. On the other hand, there is plenty of free nonprofit software that may integrate with your CRM.

Let’s go back to segmenting your donors for a second. Knowing which donors contributed to your organization for the first time will be valuable information to know when creating a follow-up strategy.

If a donor is contributing for the first time, you might send additional information along with your acknowledgment letter to welcome them to your organization’s family. For instance, you could send them:

  • A welcome packet with more information on your organization’s history and mission.
  • Links to your social media accounts so that donors can interact with your organization on different channels.
  • Details about any upcoming fundraising events.

This information will have much more value to a first-time donor than to someone who has been contributing to your organization for years.

Alternatively, a donor that has given to your organization multiple times might find more value in learning about your recurring gift options or joining your membership program.

With your CRM, you should be able to set reminders to notify staff when they should send out follow-up emails or letters. Additionally, you can set up automated emails that will go out after a donor completes a specific action like donating on your mobile giving form.

As you may know, following up with donors is the first step in the stewardship process and first impressions matter! Put your best foot forward and engage with donors in a timely and effective manner.

Final thought: Software can help you perfect your follow-up communications. Use features like email automation and segmenting donors to create a great first impression.

With so many ways to boost your donor stewardship, CRMs are more than just data tracking tools. Use your nonprofit CRM to its full advantage to reap the benefits of long-lasting donor relationships!

John Killoran

John Killoran is CEO of @Pay, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web and social media sites.  John pioneered SMTP payments and has been a major innovator in the mobile payments space for the past 5 years. When he is not running a company, he is cooking food for his family and telling his dogs to stop barking.

Build Relationships With Your Donors by Having an Open House

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Building relationships with your donors is a year-round effort. There are many ways to build relationships. One that’s more personal is having an open house at your organization. If you can’t hold one on site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.

Invite other supporters, too

You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your donors to bring a friend.

Coordinate it with your year-end appeal

Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great.

A good time to have your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and early November.

Another option is spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank you event.  

Winter is tricky unless you’re fortunate to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people go away on vacation.

Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.

Keep it informal

No three-course dinners and speeches that are a cure for insomnia. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and serve something to eat and drink. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.

Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Again, keep it brief. You don’t want anyone looking for a way to escape.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense.

Speaking of tours, you could offer them at other times, too. After I became a monthly donor, one organization invited me to arrange a tour.

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Get your board involved

You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.

Make everyone feel welcome

Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.

You may want to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions. And that doesn’t mean reciting your mission statement.

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Don’t forget about the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be showered with love. Nonprofits tend to do a poor job of following up after an event and miss out on a great opportunity to build relationships.

Collect names and addresses of people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).

When you do send your next appeal, include a sentence that says, “It was great to see you at our open house.”

Not all your donors will attend your open house but will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested and keep building relationships with them! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you.

The Importance of Building Relationships

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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.

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