5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes Nonprofits Should Avoid

Donor communication can be the key to growing your nonprofit’s community and reaching your fundraising goals. Be wary of these 5 fatal communication mistakes!

By Steve Page

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When your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts are in full swing, it can be easy to get caught up in a numbers game of trying to reach your fundraising benchmarks.

However, if your team wants to raise as much money as possible for your cause, there’s one area of your fundraising strategy that you shouldn’t disregard: your donor communications.

Having an air-tight donor communication strategy in place is one of the fundamentals of perfecting your fundraising strategy. Without optimizing how your organization connects with donors, your nonprofit could be missing out on some of your most important supporters.

Not sure if your nonprofit is making the most of how you communicate with donors? Look out for these five fatal donor communication mistakes that could derail your fundraising efforts:

  1. You don’t have a donor communication strategy in place
  2. You’re failing to communicate through diverse channels
  3. You’re discounting traditional donor communication channels
  4. You’re not thinking through your social media strategy
  5. You’re not making the most out of your email communications

Ready to learn how to overcome these common donor communication missteps? Let’s dive right in!

Bonus! Is your nonprofit looking to strengthen all areas of your fundraising strategy? Check out MobileCause’s fundraising software buyer’s guide to learn about how investing in the right online tools can help your team fundraise better, as well as improve your donor communications.

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1. You don’t have a communication strategy in place

One of the biggest mistakes nonprofit organizations make is failing to identify where and how they want to see their communication strategy grow like they would for their fundraising strategy as a whole.

It’s important that your team takes the time to develop an overarching communication strategy to shape each individual strategy from its foundation. As your team makes changes to improve the way you connect with donors, consider some of the following tactics.

Identify your communications goals.

While the ultimate goal of your communication strategy should be to increase donations and achieve the goals of your fundraising strategy, you also need to identify tangible benchmarks to meet that are specific to donor communications, such as adding new supporters to your email list or increasing profile views on your social media pages.

Create a communications calendar.

When your team plans out a fundraising campaign, you likely create a fundraising calendar to structure how the campaign plays out. Similarly, your team should create a communications calendar that accounts for each channel of your communications with donors. This way, you can easily keep track of what each channel is responsible for and when you will communicate.

Keep your plan flexible and responsive.

Now that you’ve developed actionable goals for your overall communication strategy, periodically follow up on them throughout your fundraising calendar and see what’s working. If you’re not progressing as planned, make the necessary changes across all arms of your communication with donors.

Bonus! Thinking through your nonprofit’s communication strategy should be one of the central parts of developing your fundraising plan. Check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s guide to crafting your nonprofit’s fundraising plan for more tips to get ahead!

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2. You’re failing to communicate through diverse channels

When it comes to your nonprofit’s community of supporters, your team should know better than anyone that they have donors from many different walks of life.

To paint them with the same brush would be shortsighted, and your fundraising strategy likely already accounts for differences in giving capacity, age, gender, region, and more.

That being said, with supporters coming in all shapes and sizes, it’s doubly important that your donor communication strategy takes account of these differences by thoughtfully implementing multiple channels of donor communication.

Put simply, your team needs to have a targeted multichannel donor communication strategy in place if you want to effectively communicate with your supporters.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Develop specific communication strategies for:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Direct mail

Many of your donors will respond better to certain communication channels over others. Some may not even use a particular channel of communication and will be completely blind to any calls to action, invitations to upcoming fundraising events, or other information that might be primarily shared on that channel.

To avoid missing out on members of your donor community, you can assess the reach of campaigns on different communication channels by using A/B testing as a means of comparison.

Additionally, by carefully segmenting your lists of supporters, you can more accurately identify the demographics of your donors and volunteers. With this knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of which communication channels to prioritize and how to better approach communicating across all channels.

The next sections will show you how to communicate more effectively on specific channels.

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3. You’re discounting traditional donor communication channels

These days, when nonprofits talk about donor communication the conversation usually circles back to one thing: social media. Having an effective social media communication strategy certainly is important and your team should take the time to hone how you communicate with donors within that important medium.

However, although donors are increasingly turning to digital means of accessing and engaging with nonprofits online, that doesn’t mean your organization should completely discount more traditional communication channels.

In particular, communicating with donors via the phone and through direct mail can both be useful ways to build relationships with supporters who might not respond well to email communication or who don’t spend much time on social media.

Even better? Just because these methods have been around for a long time, that doesn’t mean they can’t be brought into the 21st century! You can easily integrate online fundraising tools and tactics into your phone and direct mail donor communication strategies.

For example, your team could set up a phonathon run by staff or volunteers. They can call potential supporters and process their donations using your online donation forms in a matter of minutes. With this method, you can access potential donors who may need assistance in completing their online donation or those who simply need an extra reminder to give.

When it comes to direct mail, you could include a QR code or the URL of your online donation form in any mail communication you have with donors. Because this communication is on paper, these supporters can keep the letter up on their fridge or desk if they’re not immediately able to donate, which serves as a more permanent reminder of your ongoing campaign.

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4. You’re not thinking through your social media strategy

In much the same way that a nonprofit might lean too heavily on social media communications to connect with donors and end up neglecting more traditional communication methods, it’s just as easy for your team to fail to think through your social media strategy entirely.

Many nonprofits seem to see social media communication as a new frontier for connecting with donors. Because of this, some organizations think that any form of social media communication will be effective and that just having an active Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page will help boost their fundraising efforts.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it appears! Effectively using social media to engage with donors should take time, research, and a strategic approach.

Your team can start this process by asking yourselves the following questions.

What are we posting about?

Your nonprofit’s social media profiles should be sharing a variety of relevant information with supporters, but not overwhelming them with a lot of white noise. Aim to consistently post 3-5 times each day, and vary the types of posts you share. You should share upcoming events, call supporters to action with donation requests, post impact videos, and even interact with supporters’ own posts.

Are we steering supporters toward donation tools?

Some of your supporters will only encounter your organization on social media and never venture onto your nonprofit’s main website. Because of this, it’s important to get your online donation form in front of these visitors while they’re on your social media pages. By sharing links to your forms or even embedding these forms in your Facebook page, these supporters are more likely to give.

How can we learn more about our community through social media?

What’s great about social media communication with donors is that it can tell you a lot about who you’re interacting with, their habits, and the types of engagement strategies that work with them. Track metrics such as post views, click through rates, and more by analyzing how your supporters respond to your social media strategy. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your approach to better serve your social media audience in the future.

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5. You’re not making the most out of your email communications

In much the same way that your team should take a dynamic approach to communicating with donors via social media, the same can apply to how your nonprofit uses email to connect with donors.

Right now, your organization may simply be using email to remind supporters about upcoming donation deadlines or the next big fundraising event. However, your email communication strategy can do so much more!

Consider some of the following ways your team can maximize email communications with your donors:

  • Enable giving through email. Just as you should enable giving through your social media pages, your team can make giving easier for supporters by directing them to your online donation form right from your email messages.
  • Pair email campaigns with text-to-donate messages. Strengthen your email campaigns with text-to-donate reminders. When you pair email calls to action with a text reminder to give, you can increase your nonprofit’s email open rate from an average of 14% to 90%!
  • Track campaigns with shortlinks and keywords. Be sure to create unique keywords and short links for each of your fundraising campaign’s donation pages. This way, by including these in your email communication with donors, you can track engagement.
  • Use email to thank your donors and send updates. Your donors need to feel appreciated and receive regular updates from you. Email is a great way to stay in touch.

Just like with social media communication, it’s important to not relegate your email strategy to simply performing one task. Make the most of your email communications by using them to both steer supporters toward donating and to learn more about your community.

Keeping in touch with donors can be daunting! Now that your nonprofit knows what missteps to look out for, it’s time to start perfecting the way you connect with your supporters.

Steve Page is a blogger, marketer, and webmaster for MobileCause, the world’s leading mobile and online fundraising platform. MobileCause helps organizations reach their goals with a full suite of mobile-friendly solutions that allow donors to connect and give to your cause from any device. When he’s not working at MobileCause, Steve can usually be found helping organizations with their websites, learning the latest marketing trends, or working on his golf game.

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