When it comes to communicating with your donors there are some best practices you can follow to maximize the effectiveness of your donor communications. And while solicitation is an important piece of donor communications, it is only one piece of the whole puzzle. Fundraisers are rightly focused on revenue, but communicating with donors goes beyond asks. Donor communication is used for building awareness, educating on the need of the program you are fundraising for, and about how donors are creating an impact in their community. In short, donor communication is designed to build a relationship that can create a lasting impact.
In our #WiserWithWisely blog, we’ve looked at fundraising portfolios and different types of donors, in our last post we talked about how to solicit and communicate with different donor types. Today we’ll go into more detail on donor communications and best practices for fundraisers to follow.
The first best practice you should always follow when you communicate with your donors is to be personal. Start by using personal information, like their name, to show that they are important to your nonprofit and you recognize them, but also using a personable and conversational tone. Remember, you are talking to a real person, not just a donor or volunteer, people prefer communication that is directed to them personally.
Your tone would resemble a conversation with a colleague or an old friend. Of course, you’ll want to maintain some formalities, but make sure that your voice is personable. Relate to your donors and talk to them one on one so even if it’s a mass fundraising communication, it feels like it was written just for them.
The easiest way to make your donor communications more personal is using the information found in your database or CRM or your Wisely account. Some easy things that help the donor understand that you know them are past gift amounts or donation designations. This becomes critically important, in thank you letters and stewardship pieces. This level of personalization will make your donors feel like you’re speaking right to them.
Focus on Impact
Now, more than ever, donors want to help. They give to your nonprofit because they care about your mission and they want to make a difference. Your communications to donors, whether they are solicitations or not, have to be impact-focused showing how their donations are helping your nonprofit make a real difference. We need to do this in ways that connect with the donor as if we were sitting in their living room having tea.
Stories have been used to communicate important concepts as far back as our history books go. In-person or even email, storytelling continues to be a great way to show the impact of your nonprofit in the community you serve. Statistics and other ways to show impact have their place, but a good story will link your donors to the mission emotionally, and show the real-world impact of their donations in a tangible way.
Stewardship and impact-focused communications with donors are just as important for fundraising as your solicitations. You can’t always be asking for money! Your nonprofit also needs to report back to your donors with updates on your mission, programs, and how their donations are supporting your work.
You have many different types of donors in your database and you can’t treat all of them the same. Segmenting your communication strategy helps your nonprofit send the right type of communication to the right donors at the right time.
You probably don’t want to send your mid-level or major donors every single mass appeal, but you may want to bring key campaigns, like an important awareness campaign, to their attention. You should also ask the relationship manager if their donors should be included in a mass appeal. If their next major gift is a long way out, it can make sense to receive mass appeal. You can also use segmentation to write variable copy in your communication that is reflective of a donor’s giving level.
For example, add a variable paragraph to emails for mid-level donors that mentions their membership in your mid-level giving program and includes the contact information of their relationship manager. Better yet, use segmentation to send the email from their relationship manager rather than the general organization email. If it’s a letter, a handwritten signature and a live stamped envelope make the communication more personal.
Too Much vs. Too Little
When it comes to how often you communicate with your donors, balance is important. Too much communication can have a negative impact and so too, can too little communication.
You can try to be respectful and only reach out to a donor once a year to ensure you are not bothering or overwhelming your supporters. However, this can leave donors feeling ignored and not appreciated, making it harder for them to donate if you only reach out once (or twice) only when you need money.
Make sure you’re sending the right amount of communications, a mix of fundraising messages, but also stewardship and impact messages, so your donors see how their donations are making a difference. This information is appreciated and it will encourage your donors to give again and again.
Many of these communication best practices rely on knowing at least a little bit about your donors, but how do you find out this information? In the next post, we’ll share some easy communication hacks you can use to get to know your donors. Stay tuned!
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