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According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, nearly 60% of people who donate to nonprofits one year won’t give again the following year. It’s easy to think of each donation as a one-time transaction, needing no further action until it’s time for the next donation. This is a huge mistake. To encourage continuous support, it’s essential to foster strong relationships beyond that first contribution.
To ensure that your donors stay loyal to your organization, make them the central focus of your development efforts by:
Appeal to them. Help donors maintain a strong emotional connection to your cause. Donors contribute to your organization because they see value in the work you do, and because they’re persuaded that they can make a difference by becoming involved. To encourage support beyond a one-time gift, that emotional motivation needs to become perpetual. Make sure your message goes beyond the need for ongoing support to emphasize the long-term impact or end result of your programs.
Staying in touch. Don’t ignore your donors after that first contribution. To stay invested in your cause, supporters must be excited about your work and the roles they can potentially play in your mission. Communicate frequently with your supporters to keep them enthused about your cause. Pique their interest with updates, news, invitations, and opportunities. Educate and inform them about your organization and its programs. Involve them in events and activities, and provide ways for them to connect with other supporters. Provide good customer service. Address questions and concerns as soon as you can, and follow-up on schedule.
Engaging them. Potential donors react to emotion, so tell them a story. If you do this right, you will be able to engage and educate them at the same time. Make sure that you are being real and let them know how you’re changing lives and who you have helped specifically. This will remind your potential donors of all the people who are in need all around them. Encourage them to invite friends and family to tours, open houses, and other events – or even to join boards or committees within your organization.
Show your donors the return for their support. Donors make an investment when they contribute to your cause. Make sure you provide the same continuous value to your supporters that you’ve asked them to share with you. Be sure to thank and recognize donors in person, in your newsletter, on social media or at special events, and acknowledge new donations as soon as possible. Be sure to customize letters and emails. Address donors by name, send them only relevant information, and refer to recent events or activities involving them directly. Half of all donors surveyed say personalization of thank you notes from nonprofits is more important than speed. The more personal interest you take in your donors, the more interest they’re likely to take in your organization.
Show donors how their support has made a difference. A survey of donors revealed that 63% want to know how money they donate will be used. Update them on the progress of your cause, especially any feedback about what their contributions have accomplished. Transparency builds a trustworthy relationship between a nonprofit and it stakeholders. Make sure that you explain to donors what their gift can do for someone in need, no matter the monetary value. Tell them what $5 can do and what $50 can do. Pay attention to their responses to determine whether they’ll be receptive to a donation request – and how much you should ask for. Start small by asking them to advocate for your cause and introduce it to other potential supporters, rather than donate funds.
Creating a plan. Unfortunately, highly personalized cultivation isn’t always feasible within a tight nonprofit workflow. If you can’t fit in the same level of engagement for all of your donors, try segmenting your lists to prioritize time and resources. Categorize your supporters by gift size or other criteria. Then, develop a cultivation plan for each of these categories, as well as a follow-up plan for each new gift. Segmenting can help you identify the best pathways to move each level of sponsor toward more involvement and larger donations.
A nonprofit organization can’t succeed, or even exist, without the support of its donors. Go the extra mile to keep yours happy and engaged with your cause.