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Maintaining strengthened relationships with your nonprofit’s supporters is one of the most critical components of an effective long-term fundraising strategy. And in order to develop these relationships beyond the surface level, it’s important that you diversify your communications and outreach efforts to include more than just asking for money.
If the only time you reach out to a donor is to request another gift, you run the risk of the individual feeling like an ATM—and that’s certainly not what you want for your overall fundraising strategy.
Beyond your traditional fundraising appeals, an optimal donor journey will likely encompass a combination of cultivation efforts, supporter appreciation, and a range of other non-monetary engagements.
If your team is looking for new ideas to incorporate into your supporter relations, here are a few of our favorites:
- Matching gift requests
- Volunteer (and volunteer grant) opportunities
- Mission updates
- Gratitude and appreciation
- Donor stewardship events
Not only do transactional donor relationships fail to engage your nonprofit supporters as key partners in your organization, but they also lead to high rates of donor churn—with fewer opportunities for long-term, regularly repeating contributors to your mission.
Ready to begin? Let’s explore five fantastic ways to dive deeper into supporter engagement without asking donors to reach back into their wallets just yet.
1. Matching gift requests 🎁
For those who have recently given to your organization (say, in the last year), incorporating matching gifts into your engagement strategy is a great way for donors to offer significant value without requiring another monetary request.
Thousands of companies (that employ millions of individuals) match donations that their team members make to qualifying nonprofit causes. More than likely, a good portion of your own donor base will be eligible to collect a gift match on your nonprofit’s behalf, whether they know it or not! Not to mention, donors typically love participating in corporate matching initiatives, which allow them to make double the impact on a cause they already care about.
That’s why we recommend highlighting matching gift programs to donors after they’ve given as one of the most essential best practices you can take. It’s a good idea to follow up on prospective matching gifts within 24 hours of receiving a donor’s initial gift. However, it’s not too late to retroactively promote these opportunities in order to secure gift matches for previously made donations to your organization.
2. Volunteer (and volunteer grant) opportunities 🚮
Many nonprofits rely on dedicated volunteers who donate their time to help drive forward the organization’s mission. These individuals may or may not also contribute monetary donations to the cause as well.
Here are a few ways you can leverage volunteerism in your supporter engagement efforts!
There’s a significant overlap between those who contribute their dollars to nonprofits through financial donations and those who contribute their time through volunteerism. In fact, Double the Donation research reports that over 67% of worldwide donors also choose to volunteer locally in their communities, compared to only 25% of the general population.
Thus, if you’re looking to engage donors in new ways, consider inviting them to take part in a volunteer capacity! This might include positions staffing a fundraising event, conducting administrative duties, or taking part in a community clean-up.
The ideas are endless, and each has the potential to get supporters further connected to the organization by taking a hands-on approach. And the best part is that it doesn’t cost to participate!
Just because your volunteers aren’t contributing tangible dollars doesn’t mean their hours spent working are worth nothing. Not only do these individuals help fulfill necessary tasks for your cause, but they may also be eligible to request corporate volunteer grants to make their efforts stretch even further.
Like matching gifts, volunteer grants are a form of corporate philanthropy in which participating companies agree to financially support the organizations their employees contribute to first. Instead of matching dollars donated, in this case, hours spent volunteering with a cause are eligible to be matched for the organization at a set rate or stipend amount. Thus, you do end up with a donation thanks to your volunteer; it just didn’t have to come from their own pocket!
3. Mission updates 🚀
More than likely, the individuals who have given to your organization in the past have some sort of connection to or affinity for your cause. When you share regular updates on the efforts your organization is able to accomplish, thanks to the generous supporters in your network, you provide individuals with a more tangible impact of the dollars or efforts they contributed.
To share mission updates in the most effective manner, we recommend incorporating strategic nonprofit storytelling tactics such as memorability, emotion, inspiration, imagery, and more. This might include specific success stories (such as “We were able to find a forever home for Mittens, the three-legged cat) or facts and figures (“We rescued 565 kittens and 438 puppies this year) that demonstrate the organization’s efforts thanks to its supporters.
It’s a great way to engage with your nonprofit’s supporters without asking anything of them at all!
4. Gratitude and appreciation 💛
This is one of the most essential steps in any donor engagement plan—and the same goes for volunteers, fundraisers, and other types of key nonprofit supporters. Consider incorporating these methods as you do so:
- Personal phone call
- Handwritten letter
- Welcome packet
- Virtual or physical donor walls
- Social media post
- Branded swag
- Newsletter mentions
- Appreciation video
- Naming rights
The way you show your appreciation should ideally be tailored to the individual you’re aiming to thank. Some of these ideas utilize public recognition (such as donor walls and social media content), while others are private and typically more personal (e.g., handwritten notes or phone calls).
Be sure to keep track of—or simply ask—which types of gratitude efforts an individual responds best to, and prioritize those ideas going forward.
5. Donor stewardship events 🎉
Nonprofit supporters love attending events dedicated to the causes that they care about. The previously cited studies demonstrated this fact with reports that more than 56% of donors attend nonprofit events on a regular basis.
While many of these events are likely fundraisers for charitable organizations’ causes, others focus more on appreciation and stewardship efforts. Thus, as you plan your event, keep in mind that soliciting funds should not be the sole (or even main) objective. Otherwise, you can potentially face the same issues with the event coming off as just another financial appeal.
Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
- Behind-the-scenes tour of your nonprofit headquarters
- Classy gala-style events and dinner parties
- Art shows and galleries
- Concerts and performances
- Q+A panels, webinars, and conferences
- Food truck parties
- Cocktail parties or brunches
Stewardship events like these allow your team to more personally engage with the supporters who help make your mission a reality. At the same time, they provide those supporters with an engaging event experience to remember.
Say goodbye to surface-level supporter relations
Your donors mean more to you than the dollars they can provide you with—so be sure they know that! Make an effort to engage your nonprofit supporters beyond the financial by encouraging new ways to get involved with your cause, updates on fundraising goals and mission operations, and more.
You’ll see deeper, longer-lasting relationships with those who care about your cause, and your supporters will feel like real people rather than data points in your CRM. It’s a win-win!
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