There are no two ways about it; donors are the lifeblood of your nonprofit. Yes, you can have efficient operating practices, and a unique approach to your cause, but without a steady flow of donor interest, your funds are likely to dry up. This isn’t just a challenge about finding new donors or exploring the next frontiers of fundraising, either. You need to be able to not just convert an interested party to provide a single donation, but keep them coming back and supporting your efforts.
Part of your essential toolkit for new and continuous donations is great communication. In most cases, this will involve a combination of methods. This communication helps to highlight current and emerging needs alongside ongoing goals. When done effectively, it performs the task of keeping your donors meaningfully connected to your cause for years to come. That said, keeping on top of communications methods can sometimes feel like a juggling act. The potential for dropping a ball and losing a donor can be overwhelming.
So how can you avoid falling down here? Let’s review a few key tips for ensuring seamless donor communication.
Create a Schedule
It might not seem like the most exciting activity, but good scheduling is a bedrock of seamless donor communications. Firstly, it prevents you from inadvertently spamming your donor base with emails and text messages — different members of your team on perhaps different campaigns may well wind up overlapping messaging. This might lead donors to unsubscribe from your mailing lists and cause you to have to put effort and investment into rebuilding their interest and trust.
It also means that you can plan your messaging to be delivered at times that will be most impactful. Effective donor communication isn’t about simply sending out copy; you need your recipients to actively engage with it. As such, this might require you to do some data analysis on your donors’ responses to your communications. What times of day are they most likely to open your emails and click through to links? Utilize tools such as email tracking software like Hubspot or MailChimp and social media account insights and use the data to get your scheduling right.
You might think scheduling can feel too formulaic and impersonal. While this isn’t an entirely inaccurate consideration, the solution here is in how you treat it. When you make your communications more than just advertising text, but quality informational content, you’ll tend to find your audience will be open to having your regular posts as a reliable part of their week. Give them a reason not just to accept your communications dropping into their inbox or YouTube alerts but actually look forward to receiving them. Use the schedule as part of your strategy.
Diversify Your Media
While consistency is important, you should be wary of relying too heavily upon a single form of communication. Indeed, just because your donors’ data seems to suggest a strong preference for email marketing, that doesn’t mean you should bombard them with more of it. Fatigue is a very real issue in marketing, and it can apply to everything from emails, to social media posts, even virtual events. As such, it’s important to find a balance by diversifying the type of media you use in your donor communications.
Even if the methods of delivery you use remain relatively consistent, you should aim to make the content more dynamic. Rather than issue every campaign update through a long-form email, utilize occasional videos that show the behind-the-scenes operations their donations help to support. Instead of missives that are produced by members of your marketing team, seek to make meaningful connections by posting content that is created by leadership or even other donors.
This diversity is also vital from an inclusivity standpoint. Remember not all your donors will have the same needs when it comes to consuming communications. They may have accessibility challenges that make some content less easy to engage with. There can also be a cultural barrier that favoring a single viewpoint can present. Applying a robust set of intercultural communications standards helps you to ensure your communications are a meaningful exchange of ideas that embraces and respects ethnic and socioeconomic differences. A key element of this is avoiding the ethnocentric assumption the methods prioritized in your nonprofit’s own culture are correct. Educate yourself and your staff on what hurdles there may be, and seek to be more diverse in your approach.
Donor communication doesn’t begin and end with the mailouts you send directly to them. They need to be able to see there is a demonstrable benefit as a result of their continued support of your activities. As such, you need to maintain a regular habit of visibility not just in their inbox but in the community.
This doesn’t mean to say you should engage in activities that pull your focus away from your primary cause. Rather, seek to participate in mutually beneficial community engagement that not only builds visibility but also increases trust and loyalty. When consumers see you directly impacting the issues and neighborhoods they care about, they are likely to be responsive to your nonprofit. This could include supporting small local businesses when planning events. You could even participate in an expertise-sharing scheme where your staff volunteer relevant community projects. Make sure your efforts are branded, and they form part of your discussions online and in the media. Don’t just think about your communications on a national scale, by connecting to your donors in their local area, you give them reasons to care and something to talk about with friends and online.
Maintaining effective communications with your donors can mean the difference between long-term support and losing their interest. Take the time to establish a schedule that fits with their preferences. Embrace a diverse approach that keeps your donors interested in your activities and engaged with your organization. This, alongside a commitment to community visibility, can maintain a donor base that in turn helps you do some significant good in the world.