Top 5 Communication Hacks to Get to Know Your Donors

Top 5 Communication Hacks for Donors
TOP 5 Communication Hacks to get to know your Donors | Wisely

Our last #WiserWithWisely post covered some best practices for fundraisers to keep in mind when communicating with donors. If you read that post then you probably noticed a theme, that many of those principles required knowing your donors.

Before you start building a communications strategy, spend some time thinking about the causes you care about and support. As individuals, there are certain causes you (and I) care about more than others. Your donors feel the same way about your nonprofit. Work with that knowledge and build your donor communication plan – what do you like to see in nonprofit communications? What makes a particular nonprofit special to you? Then think about the ways that your nonprofit interacts with its donors –are donors engaged,  what do your donors care about, is the mission communicated well, and is your nonprofit important to your donors? When you feel like you have a deep understanding of those questions, you’re ready to start building your communication plan. Getting to know your donors is critical for building an effective communication and fundraising strategy. If you don’t know anything about your donors, how will you know what they’re interested in? Fundraising is ultimately about relationships. Your donors want to feel like your nonprofit knows and cares about them.

If you have thousands of donors in your database, getting to know them all personally is very hard and likely not possible. But there are some easy communication hacks you can use to gather information from your donors and build long-lasting relationships. Here we share Wisely’s Top 5 Communication Hacks to get to know your donors: 


When you think about surveys, you may think that donors will find them annoying or intrusive. But surveys are an excellent way to learn about your donors, and they are actually a great tool for donor engagement. 

Surveys provide donors a low commitment way to get involved with your organization and feel like they can share valuable information and feedback with your nonprofit. It makes donors feel like their opinion is important to you! People love to share their thoughts and opinions. 

When you set up your survey, position it in a way that sounds like an engagement opportunity for your donors and not like you’re digging for information! Surveys are great for all donor types, you can even change up the questions for different donor groups to find out information that is relevant to that particular giving level – you probably wouldn’t send the same survey to your major donors as you would to a mid-level or mass donor. 

Here are some tools you can use to easily set up a survey

Stewardship Calls

Thank you calls are an excellent way to get to know individual donors. Stewardship calls help you discover the why behind a donor’s gift, the reason that your nonprofit’s mission is important to them personally. Once you understand your donor’s why and their motivations you can build a stronger relationship and more donations will follow.

When your fundraising team makes a thank-you call to a mid-level or major donor, make sure they are doing more than just saying thank you. These stewardship calls are an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your donors and to get to know them better. 

You can also use stewardship calls to get to know your annual donors. Consider hosting an annual thank-a-thon with the goal of contacting as many annual donors as possible. Instruct the staff and volunteers who are making calls on your behalf to take notes of the conversations they have, any interesting feedback they receive, and any comments or complaints that come up repeatedly. 

A thoughtful phone call that doesn’t ask for money, but strives to engage the donor and hear their thoughts about the organization, is a great way to learn more about your donor – and to positively influence their excitement about your mission, their sense of being appreciated, and their happiness about being a donor.

A/B Testing

It’s really hard to get to know your annual donors, if you are a large nonprofit organization your annual program could consist of tens of thousands of donors. So how can you get to know your donors on such a large scale?

The answer is A/B testing in your mass communications. If you’ve never run an A/B test before, don’t worry it’s easy to do once you have a plan in place. You can run tests through channels like email and direct mail, email is a great place to A/B test because you can see the results quickly.

To run an A/B test, pick an element of your donor communication to test, maybe it’s using a different photo or a different email subject line or change all the variants. The test could even be something like adding a beneficiary story in the test version. It’s important that the test is clearly defined so that you can easily analyze the results and know the variable that made the difference. To set up an A/B test you will split your audience into two equal groups, one group will receive your control communication and the second will receive the test version with the variable that you’re testing – a different photo, story, or subject line. 

A/B testing isn’t an instant win, it takes planning and analysis over time, you may need to run many A/B tests to learn all the information you want. The investment is well worth it, when A/B testing is done right you can gain valuable insights on what your donors like and improve your future fundraising and communications. 

Here are some A/B tests you can do to find out what your donors respond to:

  • Fundraising offers or designations 
  • Different types of messages, for example, a beneficiary story against a testimony from a staff member
  • Send out communications at different times or dates to see when your audience is most engaged

Pay Attention to Social Media

This is another tip for getting to know your annual-level donors, even if you have a very large group, it’s easy. Your nonprofit is probably already posting on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn – you can use those posts to get to know your donors. 

Keep track of the comments and engagement on your social media posts. Are there certain topics that get a lot of positive comments and engagement? Others that don’t really seem to interest your audience? What about topics that inspire a lot of questions or even negative comments? All of this can help you figure out what your audience is interested in, and which topics you may need to do more education and awareness building around to help your donors understand.  

If you’re not getting a lot of comments on social media that give insight, try asking a question or asking for feedback in the comments section of some of your posts to inspire engagement and conversation. 

Just Ask! 🙂

Not only is this the easiest way to get to know your donors, but it’s also the most important step in building long-lasting donor relationships. Fundraising is much more than asking for money and bringing in revenue, it is very personal especially at the higher levels, and your nonprofit’s revenue is driven by the relationships you have with your donors. 

Conversations like asking what donors think of your mission, why it’s important to them and why they donate to your nonprofit are critical for building relationships that lead to more donations and greater revenue over time. 

This strategy works for all of your different donor types including donors that you have a personal relationship with as well as at scale for your larger donor groups. Getting to know your donors by just asking questions will give your nonprofit valuable insights, and it will make your donors feel appreciated and in turn help in building a stronger relationship. 

For major donors, have a conversation with them to find out why they give to your nonprofit, talk about their past giving, and learn about their motivations and how they learned about your nonprofit and your mission. Ask them what they think of your nonprofit’s work and if there’s something you’re not doing that they’d like you to consider.

For larger donor groups like your annual donors and your mid-level donors ask your donors questions in mass email communications or through social media for feedback, why they give, or what their thoughts are on your nonprofit’s work. 

Once you’ve gotten to know your donors at all levels, it’s time to use your fundraising portfolio for stewardship and cultivation to build strong relationships with your donors – especially with your mid-level, major donors, and prospects. In the next series of blogs, we’ll focus on stewardship, cultivation, and moves management strategies that build strong donor relationships.

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