Build Relationships With Your Donors Every Step of the Way

2592683540_77e7a1ac7f_mMany nonprofits think fundraising is all about raising money. But raising money is only part of the fundraising equation.

Fundraising’s Not About Money (What???)

One of the most important things you need to do is to build relationships with your donors. Building relationships should be front and center in everything you do.

Here are some ways you can incorporate building relationships every step of the way.

Make relationship building part of your fundraising campaign

You need to build relationships before, during, and after each of your fundraising campaigns.

Before your next 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 individuals? 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-time donor for supporting you these past five years.

Monthly donors get their own appeal letter. This doesn’t happen enough and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Build relationships with these committed donors. Recognize they’re monthly donors and either invite them to upgrade their gift or give an additional donation.

Pour on the appreciation

Your focus on building relationships continues when you thank your donors. Many organizations do a poor job with this. 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 relationship.

Be sure to also shower your current donors with love to keep your relationship going. Give a shout out to donors who have supported you for several years.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to build relationships

I’m amazed that after I attend an event or give a memorial gift, most organizations don’t do a good job of building a relationship. I could be a potential long-time donor.

When you hold an event, give your attendees an opportunity to sign up for your mailing list. Next, call or send thank you notes afterward.

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.

Memorial gifts are another missed opportunity. Also, if a person has given a donation in memory of someone, they deserve a heartfelt response and the opportunity to connect with you in other ways.

Personally, I would never give a memorial gift or support someone in a charity walk if I didn’t believe in that organization’s cause. Don’t miss out on a potential opportunity to build longer-term relationships.

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. What if we put all the time and energy we focus on giving days into a relationship building day?

I’m not saying you can’t participate in giving days, but instead of the relentless begging, follow the formula above and build relationships before, during, and after your appeal.

Of course, you could choose not to participate in a giving day and have an all-out relationship building day instead.

Build relationships all year round

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 go on communication hiatus at certain times of the year and that’s a big mistake.

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. A communications calendar will help you with this.

Build relationships with your donors every step of the way. This will help you with that always-important donor retention because you want committed donors who will support you for a long time.

Build Loyal Donor Relationships in 3 Easy Steps.

Donor Relations: 8 Best practices for your Nonprofit

How To Build Meaningful Relationships With Your Donors

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What Comes Next

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I imagine most of you have sent out your year-end appeal. You may think your work is done for now, but it’s not.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to keep your donors for a long time.

Fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about building relationships and making your donors feel good about giving to your organization.

Some of you may already be doing what I’m going to suggest below. Kudos to you! But I can guarantee some of you aren’t doing these crucial relationship building steps.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

The key word here is good. A good thank you is not the same boring email or letter you’ve been using for way too long. A good thank you is also not something you send weeks after you’ve received a donation.

You want your donors to feel good about making a donation. A handwritten note or phone call is always better than a letter, but if you only have the means to do a letter, make it awesome.

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

The retention rate for new donors continues to be abysmal.

One way to help ensure people will give again is to create a welcome plan, which will provide you with ways to let your new donors know how much you appreciate them.

If you specifically welcome your new donors, you’ll stand out because most organizations don’t do this. Make sure your welcome plan consists of ways to communicate throughout the year and not just the initial welcome message. The following post has more helpful information on welcoming new donors. Nonprofit Retention: All Donors Aren’t Created Equal

Make your current donors feel special, too

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years? These are your valuable donors.

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

Make a plan to specifically recognize your long-term donors.

Send holiday and New Year’s greetings

The holidays give us the perfect opportunity to reach out. Send holiday and New Year’s greetings by mail or email. Do not include any type of ask with this. If you need to send fundraising reminders, make that a separate message.

Don’t hold back on your other donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end fundraising, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication. Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep going

Your first New Year’s resolution should be to communicate with your donors more. Many nonprofits seem to go quiet between fundraising campaigns. Don’t be one of them.

Keep reaching out to your donors – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on how they’re helping you make a difference.

Think of other ways to do something special for your donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help you with this.

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