Hold Onto Your Donors: Maintain Positive Relationships


Fundraising Tips

Nonprofits Mar. 22nd, 2024

3 Simple Rules for Building Donor Relationships

You’ve worked hard to connect your organization with invaluable new donors, but the work doesn’t end there. Follow these three crucial steps to maintain positive relationships and keep the love (and donations) coming.

Keeping donors is more effective than losing them.

Imagine you’re on the phone with a donor who gave a while ago, but not recently. Sure, it may have taken a couple (alright, five) attempts to reach them, but it shouldn’t matter—it was just a fluke. So why did you lose them?

Maybe they needed to update a credit card or had a change in address. Did they fall through the cracks, or did a bigger event, fundraising campaign, or project become too distracting? Whatever the issue, it was just a mistake—a misunderstanding—one that can be cleared up.

We’ve all been there—and most of us have been on both sides. We’ve gotten involved in something, but then fallen off. And for the most part, that happens for one of two reasons: too much communication (which can be annoying), or too little. 

Because a whopping 53% of donors stop giving because of poor communication, it’s imperative to find the right balance. How do you keep your current donors (who are 10x less expensive than finding new ones) without turning them off?

Luckily, you can use the tools already at your disposal to blossom your relationships with your donors. Read on to learn more about the three best ways to hold on to donors. 

Optimize your CRM to death

Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database isn’t just an analysis tool; when utilized well, it can help you retain and engage your donors. In addition to tracking your donors’ contact info, demographics, and involvement with your nonprofit, you can also customize reports to track trends, interactions, and preferences.

Perhaps one of the most useful ways of optimizing a CRM (such as FundHero) is by cultivating a donor strategy. With a specialized workflow tailored specifically to your donors, you’re able to roll out the right appeals, the right messaging, and the right CTAs exactly when they’ll be most effective. By doing so, you’ll know precisely when to send invitations, updates, and donation requests—instead of at the last minute.

A CRM will also help you build a donor profile. A donor profile helps ensure you reach your target audience. For instance, by using the immense amount of data in your CRM (such as donor documents and the similarities they have with other donors), you can make your donor profile more specific—while ensuring your campaign reaches a wide range of people. The best thing about your CRM? It refuses to be annoyed.

You’ve got channels, so use ‘em

In today’s always-on, digitally flexible society, people expect to be met where they want to be meet. A knock on the door or phone call may add a flair of hands-on caring, but a tweet or DM can be just as personal (oh yeah—and you can use your CRM to find out exactly which channels your donors prefer).

For example, it’s been proven that organizations that use social media to engage with their donors not only inspire loyalty, they also cultivate organic advocates who are likely to say good things about you to their network. First, follow your donors. Then, engage with them. Share their content on your organization’s page, thank them directly on their feed, and use direct messaging if they want to discuss the campaign on a more one-on-one basis. 

Of course, social media isn’t the only effective channel. Emails, phone calls, and yes, “snail mail” are all fruitful methods of keeping up with your donors. And while automated updates to donors across channels are crucial in growing your campaign, consider customized content—especially to the donors who give the most. Identify your top 20% of donors, and make sure you reach out to them personally every quarter. 

Whether via social media, direct mail, phone, or email (or a combination of all), using a multi-channel approach to stay connected to your donor network is pivotal. The benefits are endless: You meet them where they want to be met, you amplify your reach, and you keep them in the loop. 

Show your donors where their money goes

Donors value transparency. They donated to YOU for a reason—so let them see their impact. Transparency in the nonprofit sector, of course, can shine through in many different ways (so make sure you use the right channels to let them know). Remember that ugly number above, that 53% of donors stop giving due to poor communication? A full 5% of them believe the charity doesn’t need them. If you don’t tell them where their money is going, can you blame them?

Thank you notes are obviously a great way to show your donors they’re appreciated, but add specifics: Let them know how the campaign is going, reinforce your platform, and tell a genuine story about their impact. In addition to knowing their payment was received, donors want to know how impactful their payment actually is. 

From a widespread organizational level to a grassroots campaign to a personal story, donors feel the impact of their donations. If a donation went to a political campaign, let the donor feel their impacts through the newest polls and clarified stances. If someone donates to a fund for cancer research, be transparent on clinical trials and the latest news in the field. Impact doesn’t end with a donation, so don’t let your donors feel like it is. Be transparent, and keep your donors.  

Wrapping Up

Nobody likes to lose donors, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to build positive relationships with them. Use your data effectively to ensure you’re reaching out to them at the right cadence and on the right channels. And when you do, make sure they know they’re informed and appreciated. Doing so will not only keep the donations coming, it can also reinvigorate their excitement for your organization, which can lead to higher donations and organic advocacy to their connections.

Eric Bloom

With 17 years of experience, I have become accustomed to identifying key issues in order to craft impactful operational strategies, while fostering trust through exceeding expectations. My cross-industry experience (from politics to finance to healthcare to name a few) informs innovative solutions, tailored to address unique concerns and bolster the reach and effectiveness of initiatives.