Getting a first-time donor to give is only half the battle of fundraising. In fact, in 2019, only 24% of online donors gave again within the 12 months following their first donation. Unfortunately, this means that 76% of your donors will probably only give one time!

However, by nurturing authentic, long-term donor relationships, you can increase your donor retention and guarantee sustained fundraising success

This article will help you navigate the challenges of building relationships with your donor base. We’ll discuss five best practices to keep in mind when developing your donor relations strategy.

5 Best Practices for Donor Relations

1. Leverage Donor Data

Reviewing your donor data is a crucial part of learning more about your donors. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to find out how many organizations don’t leverage their data to get to know their donors on a deeper level. 

Donor characteristics will give you valuable insights into who your donors are, how to develop unique relationships with them, and how to make informed donation requests. Here are some of the most important characteristics to keep track of in your donor database:

  • Parental status
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Volunteer history 
  • Donation frequency
  • Largest donation 
  • Average donation
  • Most recent donation
  • Age
  • Wealth indicators

Keeping track of Information like this enables you to plan your future appeals and make more targeted asks. 

Also, getting to know your donors will save you tons of money and resources. Nonprofit Quarterly estimates that it costs ten times more to acquire a new donor than it does to keep a current one.

Last, don’t forget to pay special attention to your major donors. As they’re providing highly impactful contributions, they warrant more of your time than smaller donors. As a rule of thumb, you should focus more effort on the 20% of donors who are most likely to give you 80% of your future revenue.

FREE Donor Profile Template for Fundraisers

Use this template to record and track your donor characteristics so you can target the right individuals for the right campaigns.

2. Invest in a Good Nonprofit CRM

Investing in a multi-faceted Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) will give your organization the tools it needs to develop meaningful relationships at scale.

Check out the CRMs below to get started with donor relations management:

Neon CRM: This software is best for small nonprofits with complex membership or event management needs. It may also be ideal for organizations with active direct mail programs.

Keela: This is the best CRM for small-to-mid-sized organizations and teams with serious growth aspirations. With its automated workflows and personalization capabilities, it can’t be beaten! 

Raiser’s Edge NXT by Blackbaud: If you’re from a large nonprofit with a robust technology team, Raiser’s Edge may be the CRM for you! It’s perfect for organizations with more than 75,000 contacts in their database.

Salesforce: This CRM is great for large organizations. The system is capable of managing complex databases and providing graphic and analytical data. It can also allow multiple administrative users and provides tools that make communicating both with employees and donors a breeze.

On top of donor relations features, a good CRM will allow you to organize campaigns, analyze organizational progress, and process donations.

3. Promote Transparency

About 60% of people globally reported that they don’t trust nonprofits to accomplish their missions effectively. So, it comes as no surprise that even some of the most reputable nonprofit organizations face an uphill battle to gain donor trust. 

However, a study found that nonprofit organizations that earn a transparency accreditation can gain up to 53% more in contributions just one year later. So, it pays to promote transparency! 

Two ways to do so are by diversifying your communication channels and creating detailed annual reports. 

First, make sure you have various communication channels. This way, your stakeholders can choose how they receive organizational updates. A few communication channels to consider are social media accounts, weekly email newsletters, and a “News” page on your website. 

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your stakeholders how they want to receive updates. Being proactive with transparency will go a long way to developing stronger donor relationships.

Second, nonprofit annual reports are a great way to practice transparency. By reading about your nonprofit’s impact, financial performance, and organizational updates, stakeholders can understand the process behind critical decisions and strategies implemented over the past year.

Make sure to publish your report on your website, share it on your social media channels, and send it to your mailing list. When stakeholders read your report, they’ll feel more confident in the impact of their contributions and develop a deeper connection to your organization.


Craft Your Next Annual Report

Use this template to create a shareable, complete report and promote organizational transparency.

4. Personalize Your Donor Communications

In a recent study, 78% of respondents claimed they were more likely to give if they received personalized content. So, make sure your communications are aimed to develop unique connections with your stakeholders. 

It’s important to communicate with donors in a way that reflects where they’re at in their donor journey. For example, suppose someone has donated for the first time. In that case, it may come across as disingenuous if you immediately follow up with an automated response letting them know how their money was spent. That response, although well-intentioned, can leave a first-time donor them asking themselves, “How was my money even spent that fast?”

Put yourself in your donors’ shoes and consider ways to personalize your messages. Ask yourself a few of these questions to personalize each message:

  • How much did they donate?
  • Is this their first time donating? 
  • What impact area are they contributing to? 
  • What is the most authentic way to demonstrate the impact of their donation? 

Even if you answer all these questions, we understand that your organization likely won’t have the time or resources to assign an employee to message every donor manually. However, with an effective email marketing tool, you can automate and personalize your communications, so you can spend more time having the conversations that matter most.  

If you’re looking for an email marketing analytics service, here are three of our top choices to consider:

MailChimp: You’ve probably already heard of this one! MailChimp is a web-based email marketing service that allows you to design and track email newsletters. Their platform allows you to bring in audience data, marketing channels, and other valuable insights to help you reach your goals faster. You can also promote your organization across email, social media, landing pages, and more. 

Constant Contact: This platform allows you to send branded, customized fundraising emails to your audience. Further, Constant Contact lets you create donor segments to target the right audience with the right message. What’s more, there’s the optionality to send polls and surveys to gather pertinent data on what matters most to your members and supporters. 

SendGrid: As a customer communication platform catering to email marketing, SendGrid specifically allows you to send mass emails. They provide analytics on each email’s performance and help you make informed, data-driven decisions. 

Also, don’t forget to find an email marketing solution that integrates with your CRM. This is especially important as your CRM will allow you to segment your donors into subgroups of similar characteristics. Once you determine your segments, you can send them personalized messages based on their giving level, favorite impact area, or level of engagement. 

This process will give you a more targeted approach to your communications and appeals! 

Even better, a recent study found that AI-driven segmentation by CRMs provided 12.7% more in email campaign revenue and improved campaign ROI by 22.8% compared to manual segmentation!


Measure Your Nonprofit’s Performance with Fundraising KIT

Using Fundraising KIT, you can automatically track your nonprofit’s goals and KPIs all in one place. You can create easy-to-understand graphs, customize your dashboards, and find out how each metric impacts your fundraising strategy.

5. Recognize Your Donors

Imagine thinking of the perfect gift for someone, saving up the money, wrapping it perfectly, and giving it to them, only to get no response. That would be so awkward and discouraging! This is how unrecognized donors feel.

Remember that first-time donors often take lots of time researching organizations before they decide to take the plunge. So, when they finally commit to a nonprofit and feel like their contribution was unappreciated, they probably won’t want to give again.

A small act such as a thank you email or sending an update on your organization’s projects can go a long way in fostering loyal donors.

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