Being in nonprofits for 10+ years, I quickly learned that the engagement of your supporters goes a long way. Another thing that I learned is that engagement doesn’t have to be hard. You just have to learn the basics and decide to do them right. As the title of this blog suggests, successful engagement is a multistep process that centers around the following five steps.
1. Get to Know Your Donors
A crucial step in any good relationship is laying the right foundation. When it comes to donor relationships, we have to take the time to get to know them and why they chose to engage with your organization, how they want to be communicated to, and the level of involvement they want to have. Have they had any other experiences with other nonprofits and was that experience a positive or negative one? Don’t forget key biographical information such as their background, family members and hobbies and interests.
2. Get Them Connected
As you determine how your donor wants to engage with you and your organization, use that information to connect them with the right outlets within your organization. Make it a priority to keep them well informed with regular and consistent communications. Invite them to events that speak to their interests and connect them with other supporters in your organization that share those same passions. Also, don’t forget about social media and the impact that it can have on keeping donors informed on what is going on with your organization and the ways you are serving your mission.
3. Deepen the Relationship
Donor relationships are not a one size fits all situation and based on the foundation that you built, you will know when the time is right to take the relationship to the next level and the right move to make. For some donors, the next logical step is to ask them to volunteer for your organization, such as a regular activity or special event. For others, they may have a talent or skill that would make them perfect candidates to serve on a committee or even your Board of Directors. If someone has been a casual donor, maybe they are primed and ready to take their commitment higher by asking them to make a monetary gift that supports a specific initiative that they are passionate about. Lastly, for those who want to financially support your organization more than they are able to do personally, they may be perfect candidates to lead an individual giving campaign (aka peer-to-peer fundraising). The key to deepening the relationship is to find a way for your donor to continue to connect with your organization on that deep emotional level.
4. Say “Thank You”
Thanking your donors is one of the biggest things you can do with helping them stay engaged. If they do not feel that your organization is thankful for them and their support, they will eventually move on. Saying ‘thank you’ needs to be personal and can come in the form of a phone call or visit, but why stop there? Add your personal touch in a variety of ways such as sending a video of you or the appropriate person thanking your donor. Use social media to give them a shout out and share with others how your donor’s support is helping you to fulfill your mission.
5. Show the Impact
Nothing helps to solidify a good donor relationship more than showing them the impact that they are having within your organization. Make the time to invite them to see their support in action. Some ideas include taking donors on a facility/site tour or inviting them to a program that they are helping support. Maybe their donation helped to purchase a critical piece of equipment or introduce them to someone who has been personally impacted by their donation. However you choose to show them the impact they are making, make it personal and authentic and don’t be afraid to make the experience exceptional for the donor. The more they feel that they are really affecting change, the more they will feel engaged with your organization and mission.
Engagement isn’t hard, but it does take work. By making engagement a priority within your organization and making each of these steps work for your organization will have a big impact on your donor engagement, which increases retention and helps to solidify your organization for the future. My personal belief is that when you do the small stuff right, you get big results and engagement basics are one the keys to big mission outcomes.
Written by Jessica Cooper, Client Account Manager