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Effective strategies for small to mid-size nonprofits
Current Topics
Leading in Difficult Time
Engaging Your Donors
Creating Effective Plans
Importance of Donor Data
Time Management
Strategic Planning PPT
Strategic Planning PPT II
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Engaging Your Donors

Have you ever given something to someone, and not heard back from them?  Perhaps the thank you note for the wedding gift never came.  Maybe you’ve been asked for your advice by a friend and never found out if they were able to resolve their issue.


These social blunders might cause you to think back from time to time, and wonder if the gift was received and appreciated, or if your friend is really true.  And they serve as examples of the kind of questioning donors can engage in if you aren’t appropriately recognizing their gifts or engaging them in your cause. 


When you think about all of the kinds of services provided by nonprofit organizations in this country, and then about all of the nonprofits serving all of those causes, you realize donors have many, many options for making contributions.  Once someone has made the decision to contribute to YOUR nonprofit, you have the great opportunity to engage them in a way that will make them feel positive about that gift, and not question the value of their decision.  This is the process that leads to long-term, even life-long supporters.


Recognition Plus


Of course you send a thank you letter to every donor, in a timely manner.  (Within 48 hours of receipt of the gift is a good policy.)  Your donor names are included in appropriate recognition forums, such as your website and newsletter (unless anonymity is requested). 


What else do donors want?  While the particulars for each donor will differ, ultimately, most donors want meaningful engagement; that is engagement that is meaningful to him or her.  That may mean they want timely, accurate information about the activities their contributions support.  They may want this information in the form of a newsletter or update, or they may appreciate an occasional call.  They may want to volunteer, or to participate in events and activities.  It’s your job to ascertain the appropriate level of engagement, and provide the opportunities. 


Communicating with your donors


How do you determine individual donor needs?  By communicating directly with the donor.  First, asking about communications preferences can be part of your initial gift request.  Your membership form and sponsor pages can ask this question.  Thank-a-thons, where staff, board members and other volunteers call to thank donors, is another great way to acquire this information, as well as to determine their interest in further involvement.


Mass communication should be provided to every donor.  This may be in the form of a regularly scheduled newsletter or email communication.  It’s also a great idea to call every donor at least once during the year, just to thank them for their support and to find out what’s on their minds in regards to your organization.  You can ask how they think you’re doing, if they have any ideas on how you can improve, and mention recent news you want to be sure they hear about. 


For major donors, you should be very proactive in your communications.  Ask if you may call them with updates from time to time.  Send a personal note if you see them in the news.  Be sure to engage with them at events, either your own or others you may attend.  Take every opportunity to thank them for their support.


Remember: out of sight, out of mind.  All of these actions will help you build appropriate relationships with your donors, and give them confidence in you and your work.  Donors who understand your work, and are engaged in more than just writing a check, will be more likely to say yes the next time you ask for their support.