The job of cultivating donors, engaging target audiences, and building personal relationships are all crucial to achieving fundraising success. With each step in the process, it’s easy to lose sight of the single-most important part of increasing fundraising and volunteerism: conveying gratitude. Below are 7 practices to help you focus on the donor experience, as well as develop and strengthen donor relationships by cultivating an attitude of gratitude:
- Implement a welcome series. Welcome the donor into your campaign or introduce them to your cause with an email welcome series that educates them on your mission. This is your chance to make the case for ongoing support. That relationship starts with thanking them in a thoughtful and meaningful way for their gift, and it progresses by telling them frequently how they are making a difference. Building strong relationships with your donors online (through email, social media and your website), may encourage them to make larger gifts, or more frequent gifts.
- Be timely with your gratitude. Fundraising often involves appropriately recognizing and thanking donors in a fashion that will encourage future giving. Show meaningful appreciation and acknowledgement by sending prompt and timely thank you and tax receipt emails. A thank you, no matter how small the contribution, can go a long way in solidifying goodwill and donor retention. Your message should be tailored specifically to the donor who gave to your campaign or organization. When a gift is acknowledged promptly it strengthens the bond between the donor and your campaign or organization.
- Customize messages for different groups. Expressing gratitude and making donors feel appreciated is the most effective way to get them to give again. Evaluate your overall donor and constituent base and separate them into smaller groups based on similar characteristics (e.g., new donors, current donors, major donors, corporate donors, and long-time loyal constituents). This allows you to tailor thank you messages to your main donor categories based upon their specific reasons for supporting your campaign or cause. Similarly, when you craft a thank you email to current donors to express your gratitude for their support, you would not want someone to receive it that hasn’t given a donation in a few years.
- Get to know them better. Who are they, what’s important to them, and how can your cause address their needs? Each donor has different values and motivations. Add custom questions to your donation form (e.g., What prompted them to make this gift? What is it about the campaign that makes them want to give?). Over time, you’ll be able to gather relevant information as to why your supporters believe in your cause or mission. Once you know the person behind the gift, you can begin to express gratitude for the gift in a way that is most meaningful to the donor.
- Stay in touch. An effective donor retention strategy requires a plan and consistent action. Your donors are being flooded with appeals, emails, social media posts, and newsletters from multiple organizations. Keep in touch with coalitions through regular email updates. These folks can spread your message, raise money, deliver votes and provide volunteers. If you’re planning an event, send personal invitations and save-the-date reminders. And be sure to send a thank you to your attendees.
- Present opportunities for involvement. Invite donors to engage and support in ways that don’t always include a monetary gift (i.e., volunteering, joining a committee, attending an event, signing a petition, etc.). Develop and send high impact communications with tailored marketing messages that drive membership, foster advocacy, raise awareness and candidate visibility, and increases volunteerism. To show appreciation, send out personalized “thank you” emails to acknowledge those that gave their time. In addition to giving their time, there’s evidence that volunteers tend to also give more money than those that don’t volunteer.*
- Share impact stories that inspire. Using newsletters to share success stories that resonate with people who support your cause or campaign can help in moving supporters to take the actions you want. Donors want to know where their money has gone and how it made an impact. Through these stories you can honor their gift by helping them understand how their contribution made a difference. Effectively reporting on fundraising results will ensure that donors, and prospective donors, know how their gifts help you achieve your mission.