If we were to survey your current donors and ask them to rate how appreciated, acknowledged, and informed they are as a donor, would you get a 10 out of 10? It’s easy to simply assume that your donors feel engaged or appreciated, and it’s even easier to just do the minimal amount of work to ensure you get a touch point here and there just to say you did it. However, if you want your donors to engage and continue with their loyal support for the long-term, you have to kick it in gear and commit some time to the relationship.


Often, about 80% of your funding will come from about 20% of your donor-base. For that reason, while gaining new donors is still important, cultivating your current donors is equally (if not more) important. Here are five tips to cultivating lasting relationships with your active donors.


  1. Determine if it’s worth your time and resources in the first place.

Yes, there are donors out there who aren’t worth your time and resources to continue engaging past their first gift. Every donor deserves a “thank you” and an acknowledgement of their gift, but it’s also important to note that they don’t always want a relationship with you.


Situations such as memorial gifts (gifts made in honor of someone), natural disaster relief, or fundraisers for a peer are good examples of donors who likely won’t engage past that one gift. They essentially were supporting a fundraiser or personal relationship with their gift more than they were your organization as a whole.


If they fall outside of the “one-timer” camp, then consider them fair game to engage, engage, engage.


  1. Engage your donors early.

This is not a drill. You can’t wait until someone has donated 5 times (or up to a particular dollar amount) for you to engage them personally, acknowledge their gift, and get them on a track of staying informed through your communication. If a donor feels like they are appreciated even on a small, short-term scale, they are much more likely to stay engaged and continue supporting your cause in the long-term.


  1. Stop the “copy and paste” game.

We will always live in a world of mass emails (ugh). And your newsletters and occasional emails are ok to be templated and the same for every recipient. However, if you’re using the good ol’ copy and paste trick for a “thank you for your donation” message every time someone gives, the donor will sniff it out and quickly feel like a number.


It’s important to find ways to personalize the email, note or phone call. It will obviously take more time, but it’s worth every second it takes to adequately show your gratitude and spark a personal relationship. It's a lot easier to stop giving to an organization when you don't have ties to an actual person.


  1. Provide multiple opportunities for engagement.

Donors "engaging" can mean more than just “giving.” And often, donors like to feel as though you’re interested in more than just their wallet. Finding different ways for them to participate and engage in your cause will help them feel more invested and equally invested in.


Provide them with volunteer opportunities, invite them to vision events or trips to see your cause in action, or ask them to use their network to help spread the word.


  1. Be transparent.

Give your donors the good, the bad and the ugly. Nonprofits who earned a GuideStar seal indicating transparency earned about 53% more in donations the next year–clear proof that people care about this piece!


Your donors know that you’re going to make mistakes. Everyone does. And if they never hear some honest communication from leadership about a particular downfall, have access to annual reports, or hear some transparent dialogue about your needs, they will often wonder exactly where their dollars are going, therefore limiting their loyalty. 


If your nonprofit needs some help or coaching with how to engage your donors, to know what kind of experience your donors need every year, and some hands-on solicitation training to solicit large gifts, we’ve got just the thing. Our donor development strategist, Sherry, offers a Fundraising Bootcamp. It’s one-on-one coaching experience over a 3-month period, all in efforts of giving your nonprofit a clear growth path for your organization’s top gifts. Click here to learn more.


P.S. The first call with our strategist to see if this offering is a fit is FREE.

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