Jitasa Nonprofit Blog

Achieving Donor Retention: Building a Relationship with Your Donor Community Part 2

Part 2 of a 2 part series.

In part one of this series, we discussed why donor retention matters to your nonprofit. The numbers proving the importance of retaining donors are staggering. That’s why this blog will address building these relationships with your donor community. Every tip features an outbound link, allowing you to research each prompt more thoroughly.

Thank your donors and mean it

A sincere thank you goes a long way, and donors agree. Kivi Leroux Miller states, “Donors want something quite simple: a prompt, meaningful thank you letter and additional communication that explains how the donation was used. That's it. Eighty percent of donors say that would convince them to make [a] second gift.”

The key words in Miller’s quote are prompt and meaningful. Your donors don’t want a receipt. So be specific, and make it as unique to that donor as possible. Including personal details is also recommended. Even small personal touches can increase the effectiveness of your thank you. For example, Miller says, “Use a more creative, personal opening. Forget “On behalf of” or “Thank you for” and start your letters with…something like, “You made my day.” You can find this and other tips for achieving a personal connection in her article “Nine Clever Ways to Thank Your Donors

You can also find inspiration by viewing page length examples at About.com . However, don’t feel obligated to mimic their length. Oftentimes, a shorter letter is just as efficient if it is personal and connects to the donor. If you want to get creative, Philanthropy.com  offers tips on making thank you videos.

Explain the impact of your donor’s investment

While thanking a donor goes a long way to building a relationship, today’s donors require more than that to feel validated for their donation. To achieve this, explain how the individual’s donation will impact your cause. Doing so will help you avoid alienating today’s modern donor. “The new generation of nonprofit supporters are much more particular about where their money goes and what happens to it...They want to work with the organizations that are making a difference, not just write a check and be forgotten.” Find this quote and more about the demands of modern donors in K. Mackillop’s article “Building Donor Relationships is Key to Nonprofit Success.”

The root of Mackillop’s idea is simple. Focus on your donors. Nonprofit consultant Simone P. Joyaux uses the word “Donor-centric” to describe organizations with a heavy donor focus.  She explains, “The donor-centered organization puts the donor at the center – of communications, stories, and thank-yous.” Establishing this connection will not only improve donor opinions and responses, but it will also go a long way to attaining a second, or multiple donations from your donors. Joyaux’s article “Is Your Organization Sufficiently Donor-Centered,” provides examples of this communication. Inform your donor “’Because of your gifts, we [were able to] do this vital work.” or   “Only with your gift can we feed families.”’ Be specific, and simply explain how their donation is going to further your mission.

Create engagement by establishing connections

Start by identifying the donor experiences that strengthen your relationship. By focusing your efforts on experiences that your donors respond to, you’ll create active engagement and participation within your community. Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook can be a great tool for connecting donors to your cause. Not only do both platforms allow your donors to keep track of your organization’s pursuits and activities, they also encourage interaction between donors.

 “In 7 Creative Ways Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Drive Donations”, Hubspot writer Hiba Haider highlights ways to create engagement on sites like twitter and Facebook. She says, “A great way to engage those who like your Facebook page is by providing them with a place to share their own stories, and comment on yours. On the Make a Wish Foundation Facebook page, for example, there are several pictures, names, and stories of children who have been touched by the foundation's efforts. People are moved by what they read, and express their love by commenting, liking, and sharing various posts.”

Maintaining a blog, and sharing a newsletter are also effective at achieving engagement, and both aid in keeping your donor informed.

Be consistent

This is arguably the most important aspect of donor retention. Because meeting donor expectations isn’t a onetime thing. You need to be consistent in your communication.

For example, if you manage a blog, consistently post twice a week. If you engage in social media (if you don’t, you need to) it’s recommended to post to Facebook twice a day and Twitter between 3-5 times (spaced evenly throughout the day). You don’t have to create epiphanies with every post, just engagement. Nonprofit Quarterly offers 8 tips  on effectively using social media for social good.

Remember, it’s considered bad manners to highlight your organization with every post. Instead, focus on engagement by highlighting donors and their gifts, sharing interesting news, Retweeting or sharing intriguing items, featuring events you’re having, and emphasizing the people your organization has helped. Utilizing tools like Hootsuite  will make social media consistency easier as it will post for you. It will also allow you to track analytics to improve engagement.

Consistently thanking, engaging, and informing your donors will create a partnership between you that will stand the test of time.

Renata Poe Massie, Content Writer, Jitasa

Need help reporting your nonprofit's financial information to donors? Check out Jitasa's Nonprofit Board and Donor Document solution.

Haider, Hiba. “7 Creative Ways Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Drive Donations.” Hubspot.com. August 7, 2012. Web. November 13,2013.
Joyaux, Simone P. “Is Your Organization Suffciently Donor-Centered?” Massnonprofit.org. January 2013. Web. November 13,2013.
Mackillop, K. “Building Donor Relationships is Key to Nonprofit Success” ezinearticles.com. Submitted On December 27, 2010. Web. October 2nd, 2013.
Miller, Leroux Kivi.  “Nine Clever Ways to Thank Your Donors.” Guidstar.org. February 2012. Web October 2nd, 2013.


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