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7 Ways to Proactively Encourage your Donors

According to the 2018 Giving USA report, 68% of total charitable giving came from individuals. This is down 1.1% from 2017 and it is the first year it fell below 70% in the past 50 years. A study from The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy reports the number of households participating in charitable giving steadily declined between years 2000-2016.

Although the donor pool is getting smaller, the silver lining is that those who do give, give very generously. There is no doubt the current economic climate has many nonprofit professionals questioning how this will impact donors’ giving attitudes and capacities. We can all certainly agree that holding on to donors is always a priority. The importance of this heightens during times of crisis and when the potential of losing stakeholders hits closer to home. While we cannot control COVID-19, the market’s volatility and the shock waves that follow, now is a great time to evaluate what is in our control.

There are many things we can evaluate to increase donor retention. Are your nonprofit and you, as a gift planner, doing what is in your control to encourage your donors to stay and continue moving forward with you? Here are a few things you can do to proactively encourage your donors to give:

1. Keep your Donors Updated on your Nonprofit’s Activity

Your donors want to stay informed and updated on your nonprofit’s activities. Sending regular updates will maintain your nonprofit and your mission at the top of your donors’ minds. What did your organization accomplish this month? Share that! Did you welcome a new key staff member? Introduce them! Is there a volunteer that goes above and beyond? Highlight their efforts! A monthly donor enewsletter is an effective and easy way to share exciting new developments. Social media is another great platform to share regular updates with your supporters. Your donors will be receptive to your communications, if what you share is valuable. Donors already find value in the work you do; keep the content mission-oriented and use a tone that excites and motivates your donors.

2. Connect your Vision with Progress

Your donors want to see progress and accomplishments. Highlight proof of the impact their contributions are having on their community, beneficiaries and causes they care about. This will keep your donors’ passion alive and brings your nonprofit’s vision into action. In your communications, it is important to present the donors as the hero of your story. For example, use phrases like “Because of donors like you, we have accomplished…” in your marketing efforts.

In addition to showing progress, continue to show the path forward. Create urgency and let donors know they are vital in continuing your work. These achievements are often published in an annual report, but you may want to consider sharing your small, day to day wins in your year-round marketing and donor communications.

3. Correlate Donor Support with Mission Success

Stories and images are powerful! The stories you tell create an emotional connection between your mission and your donors. An emotional success story or testimonial is often more effective at connecting with your donors at a heart level than statistics and numbers alone. Personally, my heart fills with joy when I receive a success story from my favorite animal welfare nonprofit. Seeing a photo of a kitten along with their rescue and adoption story brings the biggest smile to my face and it truly encourages me to keep supporting their work. Showcase success stories often and consistently. Share these compelling stories on your website, enewsletters, print newsletters, social media posts and appeals.

4. Share your Donor Stories

Stories of others giving is an important tool in motivating others. Donor stories provide social credible proof that others with shared values give, thus it prompts others into action. Donor stories are especially effective in peer to peer influence. Donor stories also offer a creative way to recognize and honor donor gifts. Always have gathering donor stories on your radar during conversations and visits with donors. Call your donors to say thank you and open up the discussion to learn more about why they support your nonprofit. If they are willing to share their story, be prepared with targeted and open-ended questions. Upload donor stories to your website, with permission, and use them in your marketing to inspire others. For tips on writing donor stories, check out this blog.

5. Create a Community and Sense of Belonging

It is human nature to want to feel connected to others. You have a wonderful platform for creating a welcoming community for donors. A shared mission makes donors feel they are an extension of your team and they are members of an exclusive group. Send special communications to your most loyal donors, share special updates, create a Facebook group or host fun virtual events to encourage engagement. A legacy society for planned gift donors provides an excellent opportunity to build community and cultivate long-term relationships, while also encouraging others to make a planned gift.

6. Create Positive Experiences

Ensure everyone on your team is trained to provide the best experience for your donors. Your staff reflects your organization’s culture and donors connect your staff with your mission.  Prepare your staff to warmly welcome contacts from your donors or prospects. Provide training on addressing donor questions and how to guide them to appropriate resources.

7. Make your Donors Feel Valued and Appreciated

Finally, say thank you! Gratitude is the most effective way to show donors you care and they are valued. Appreciation is also responsible for increased support and donor retention. If time in your staff’s schedule allows, make the effort to conduct personal calls to thank your donors. Personalized letters and handwritten notes are also effective. While automated “thank you” emails are often required and better than no thank you at all, sending a personalized message deepens the connection between your nonprofit and donor. Donor relationships quite often begin with a thank you, so be sure to always express gratitude and make it meaningful.

As we move forward, I encourage you to evaluate these different areas that foster donor retention. Now is a great time to revisit what is in our control. What is your nonprofit doing to encourage your donors to continue moving forward? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Maria Oliver

By Maria Oliver
Legacy Campaign Specialist, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.

Bradley Reiners says:
June 11, 2020 6:03 AM PT

Maria - Great suggestions and we are trying to follow these recommendations. We have an aging donor base and are in the last several months of our endowment-building effort that focuses on documenting existing estate plan inclusions and attracting new ones. Since C-19 hit full force, our elderly donors don't go out much and seeing an attorney or advisor is not high on their "to do" list. I've reached out my phone and email to stay in touch and they have received a lot of information via email from our marketing department. Is there something else that I could do to stimulate disclosures that I'm sure are out there?

Maria says:
June 11, 2020 9:26 AM PT

Hi Bradley! Thank you for your question. I would consider a multichannel approach. In addition to email & personal outreach, consider sending a print piece with a reply card. An extended postcard is a great option. Print offers a less cluttered space and more familiar form of communication for your aging donor base. You can reinforce your message in a Facebook post and be sure to include a call to action - I recommend including a link to a web form to facilitate capturing information. In addition to that, consider sending a donor survey. Include a question that allows your donors to self-identify. If your organization has a legacy society, include all the great incentives for joining in your outreach! And, of course, it is very important to lead with gratitude and with a sensitive but positive tone in all your messaging during this time. Feel free to give me a call if you would like to further discuss this.

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