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Not-for-Profits: How to Strengthen Your Donor Relations

Mueller Prost CPA - Donor Relations
Karyn A. Nunn

November 30, 2020

It’s not easy to get donors to come back. Indeed, just getting a donor to give once is a big first step. Continually strengthening donor relations is important to ongoing success.

Consider the state of donor retention: According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which is a quarterly report compiled by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute, donor retention hovers around 45%. This means that more than 50% of donors don’t commit to a given cause. And it’s no surprise that early reporting for 2020 indicates a further increase in attrition.

How can your organization buck this trend? Here are three steps to consider:

Deliver Impact

Donors want their gifts to make an impact, and recent studies indicate donors want details of the impact from their very first gift.

According to a donor survey conducted by Gartner’s donor management software, Software Advice, impact case studies are the most effective topic for engagement. Aligning beneficiaries’ successes with donors’ interest is a strong connection.

Deliver Recognition

Donor survey results also indicate that donors want to be recognized, regardless of the size of their gift. Thanking a donor is critical to nurturing the relationship. While it’s not always possible to create a personalized reply, doing so has great impact.

Most donors prefer a personalized letter or note mailed to them. A personalized email is second preference. It’s interesting to note that a phone call is the least welcome way to receive thanks.

Recognizing donors publicly is the bookend to an immediate and personal thank you. Your website, annual report, newsletter, and social media profiles are all good outlets for this message. In addition, providing a thank-you gift is a trend that continues to gain popularity. Of course, unique or larger donations require additional recognition.

Deliver Engagement

Asking for additional support must be timed strategically. The Gartner survey indicated that organizations should wait at least seven months before asking for another donation, although your donor community might have a slightly different cadence.

Waiting to ask again doesn’t mean you can’t engage donors in other opportunities for support. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates can be a great way for donors to celebrate your mission. Other fundraising events sponsored by your organization allow the donor community to continue participating in fundraising without direct solicitation.

At the core, good old-fashioned communication drives all donor relationships. Think about the relationship with your giving community as a continuum that starts with the very first contact made, continues to the initial gift or event participation, and results in longer-term, repeat support.

Stronger donor relations will lead to a stronger financial position. Let us know how we can help.

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