Are You Consistently Engaging Your Donors?

| by April Anthony

Engaging prospective and current donors consistently throughout the year should be part of your annual development planning. There are so many ways that a nonprofit or institution of higher education can engage donors. Below is a shortlist:

  • Send a prospective or current donor your annual report, e-blasts, newsletters, and press releases
  • Invite prospective and current donors to all of your events
  • Invite a high-level donor to sit on your board or a board committee
  • Ask donors to sit in on a peer screening to help identify additional donors
  • Ask prospective and current donors to participate in an organizational assessment as part of your strategic planning process
  • Recruit a prospective or current donor to host a home reception to increase awareness of your organization and cultivate new donors
  • Invite donors to tour your facilities and see their dollars at work
  • Provide donors with funding reports, whether they require it or not, using impact measurements and heartstring stories
  • Ask prospective or current donors to provide an entrée to another donor in their center of influence

Have you heard the saying “A donor should be thanked seven times”? Thanking a donor for their gift is also a way to engage and steward a donor, starting with the official acknowledgment letter and followed by personal notes, phone calls, and emails expressing your gratitude. Random thank you calls throughout the year are a great way to keep in touch, let the donor know the impact their gift is making, and ensure the donor is used to hearing from you - not just when you are soliciting a renewal gift.

Have you heard the saying “The more a prospective donor hears about and becomes involved in an organization, the more likely they will be to make a gift”? Increasing awareness of your organization is one of the keys to a successful giving program. If prospective donors have never heard about your mission, it will take longer to cultivate a contribution. Keeping your logo, mission, vision, and impact visible throughout social media, TV, radio, and print media is invaluable. Offering volunteer opportunities to prospective donors allows involvement in your mission, making an ask is truly heartfelt.

Have you heard the saying “It is so hard to recruit a donor that, once you have a donor, do everything you can to keep that donor”?  Many receive a donation, thank the donor, and then do nothing to engage them before it’s time to ask again. You or a volunteer have worked so hard to obtain the gift; you should work really hard to keep it. Make sure the donor is engaged, understands how their money is making a difference, is invited to event and gatherings, and is sent the newsletter.  Make your thank-you calls throughout the year.

Your three-year Development Plan, approved by the Board of Directors, should contain year-round engagement activities and touchpoints to donors. Scheduling monthly engagement activities will help ensure they get done. Below is a sample stewardship plan I included in a previous blog about stewardship. Engaging prospective donors leads to donations. Stewarding current donors leads to larger future gifts and lifetime donors.

January:

  • Thank donors in person, by email, and via phone
  • Create annual report and send to all donors
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

February:

  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)
  • Invite donors to volunteer

March:

  • Invite donors to visit facilities
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)
  • Invite current donors to solicit new donors for annual campaign
  • Invite donors to attend an event

April:

  • Invite donors to tour a venue showing mission in action
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)
  • Invite current donors to solicit new donors for annual campaign

May:

  • Send personal thank you notes from Board members to all annual campaign donors
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

June:

  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

 July:

  • Invite donors to attend an event
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

August:

  • Invite donors to a home reception
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

September:

  • Host home receptions for donors and prospective donors
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)
  • Invite donors to volunteer/serve on committees

October:

  • Send funding reports to all major donors
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

November:

  • Continue to send funding reports to all major donors
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

December:

  • Send holiday card to all donors
  • Send e-newsletter highlighting a donor(s)

 Please email April at april@armstrongmcguire.com with any comments or questions. 

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