Donor engagement is critical. How are you doing?
You’ve probably seen donor retention numbers over the last several years. Over the last five years, donor retention rates have been between 44% and 46%. That’s not good.
First, remember that fundraising is about so much more than asking. If you’re not thinking about donor relationships – and how donors see your organization – you’re probably not hanging on to enough of your donors.
So commit. Fundraising is a process. And if you focus more on donors, the dollars will follow. So think through every step in a donor’s journey, from first interest, to first gift, and beyond.
Nibbling around the edges of donor retention isn’t going to create the system you need in place.
Thank donors well – and promptly
I just received a thank you – in late February – from an organization I had given to months before. (This is a large organization, by the way.) It was random. In fact, I wouldn’t have remembered at all without the letter. But at this point, the glow is gone. Donor engagement fail.
What if instead, I had gotten a warm, personal thank you right away? One that noted my gift and what it would accomplish? One that was focused on making me feel good about giving? And one that read like it was from a human, not an organization?
I’d probably feel pretty good. And like I wanted to give again. But understand that for most donors, your organization is out of sight and out of mind. Unless you make your cause important to them by making them feel important to you.
Donors want to know you know who they are. And that they did something that will help. Don’t cheat them!
Show them what they accomplished
So a great thank you can help donors feel connected. But to connect the dots between gift and result, you should show them.
Send a print newsletter. This is not a public relations piece (if it’s about puffing your organization up, don’t waste your money on it). It’s all about the great things that happened because your donor cared to give.
These do take some time to do well. So you might want to schedule just a few a year. Though you may find, if you pour your heart into it, that donors respond very well. And even take the opportunity to give again!
In between these, you can send quick, chatty, updates via email. They can be much shorter. But they should still be personal. Use donors’ names. Update them on whatever they gave to (not “our annual fund” please!) And, again, it’s from a person, not an organization. A person who can easily be contacted with questions or comments.
You can also invite donors – in their thank you letter, and again in a quick email update – to a tour. Or a casual event for donors. Anything that helps connect them to the mission is great. You do not have to spend a lot of money on this event.
Ask them what they think
Feedback is often a missing part of this cycle. But it’s so important to donor engagement. Maybe we fear hearing from donors. What happens if they have criticism? That’s good! You want to hear it. And if they’re sharing it, it means they care.
First time donor?
Welcome them! You can create a basic mail package with a thank you letter, maybe your most recent newsletter, some additional information about the mission. Clip a business card to it, so they know their participation is welcomed.
If the donor gave online, you could do an email welcome series. This can be set to work automatically with your donor management system and your email. It can include lots of the steps above: thank them, then tell them more about what they accomplished, then ask for feedback. THEN ask them to give again.
Yup. Ask again within a couple of months. It can be a smaller request. But if you’re not staying in their minds, you are likely to be forgotten. You and your donor… two ships, passing in the night.