Donor communications are an important part of a nonprofit’s marketing strategy. They happen after a donor makes a gift to your nonprofit, and they usually focus on promoting giving, stewardship, and retention. This is why effective donor communications are crucial to the success of a nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts—they use your case for support to lay the foundation for why your nonprofit needs and deserves your donors’ continued support.
This article will cover how to evaluate the efficacy of your donor communication strategies and outline some techniques for improving your communications. Let’s begin.
Evaluating donor communication efficacy
Evaluating the effectiveness of your donor communication strategies can be complicated to navigate. However, you can start by examining how often your supporters engage with your messages, such as by taking a look at these metrics:
- Conversion rate
- Open rate
- Clickthrough rate
- Website views
- Email list subscriber growth
- Social media engagement
- Event attendance metrics
- Survey response rates
- Donor retention rates
By evaluating all of these metrics, you will have a better picture of your communication efficacy and how successfully you are reaching out to your donors. Try correlating trends to specific communication strategies or campaigns you’ve launched in the past, and don’t forget to dig deeper through segmentation to learn even more. For example, your last email campaign may have converted more donors of a particular age or giving level—take a close look at why that might be, and use those insights to guide further communications.
If you’re noticing that these metrics aren’t where you want them to be, then you’ll need to re-evaluate your communication strategy in part or as a whole. Similarly to how you might conduct a post-event survey for attendees, you can send your supporters a survey asking for their opinion on how you conduct your communications.
To track these metrics, ensure that you’re using fundraising and marketing tools that automatically track and report new donor interactions. These platforms should ideally integrate with your central database to simplify the process of pulling custom reports and finding trends.
Tips for improving donor communication strategies
After you glean the appropriate information from your metrics, you’ll need to make targeted changes to improve your communication strategy. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Create a communication plan
One of the best practices for donor communications is to tell an overarching story. Adding an emotional appeal to your storytelling will engage donors and keep them invested in what your nonprofit has to offer. Your communication plan is the best place to hammer out the details of your story and chart it out across your entire strategy.
Plan what your communications will look like on a yearly basis to avoid inconsistency in your storytelling. You can always adjust your plan in the future to increase or decrease your messaging rate, or adjust the period of time it covers. Weave your narrative across the communications in your plan so donors receive a cohesive message from your nonprofit.
It’s also a good idea to create separate plans and communication calendars for different donor audiences. As your donors have their own unique reasons for supporting your nonprofit, they’ll be interested in different events and aspects of your organization. You can use your variety of plans to apply donor segmentation and promote different fundraising campaigns and events to your different donors.
Optimize your website
If your engagement rates are high but you’re not seeing reliable online conversions, then you should evaluate your website optimization. Consider making the following improvements to your website:
- Prioritize mobile-friendliness. The majority of Google searches nowadays occur on mobile devices, which makes having a mobile-friendly website essential. Thoroughly check over the mobile version of your website to ensure that everything looks and works the way you want it to.
- Incorporate accessibility. Ensure that your website is accessible for people of all abilities. Have a contrasting foreground and background so that readers have an easy time reading text, and add descriptive and informative alt text to your images.
- Make navigation easy. To avoid reader confusion, make your navigation options consistent across all pages. This includes naming, styling, and positioning. You can also provide more than one method of website navigation, such as by having a navigation bar and a site search.
- Center your mission. Curious first-time visitors should be able to quickly learn what your nonprofit’s mission is and why it’s significant. You can achieve this by briefly explaining your mission on your homepage and including a button to an “about us” page, where you can communicate about your nonprofit in greater detail.
- Add graphics and other visuals. Break up chunks of text with graphics and use relevant images to grab your readers’ attention. Include videos of your volunteers and staff to further engage your audience.
As a nonprofit, having a flexible website is crucial. You should be able to easily change your website to better serve your supporters, whether that’s by updating a broken landing page or adding infographics relevant to current events. This gives you maximum control over your communications and messaging, which helps you attract more supporters.
Implement donor qualification and segmentation
Part of having a great communication strategy is efficiently allocating your time by having your development and fundraising teams focus on donors who will have the greatest potential impact. Use donor qualification to identify these prospects—they will usually be mid-level to major donors. Make qualification an ongoing part of your development work to ensure that you’re always communicating as efficiently as possible.
According to Doubleknot, your communication strategies will be the most successful if you take your audience’s values, passions, and lifestyles into account. This is why you should also implement donor segmentation, where you separate your overall donor population into smaller groups with common characteristics or interests. Send out different communications to your different donor groups, tailoring your message to build a deeper connection.
Donor qualification and segmentation are foundational tactics you’ll need to communicate efficiently. Implementing both techniques will allow you to connect with donors of all giving levels in a personally meaningful way, strengthening your relationships. Let’s take a closer look at related best practices.
Steward major donors
Retaining your major donors is crucial to the future health of your nonprofit because of the impact their gifts can make. This is why communications to major donors should use different but similar strategies to your communications with your broader donor base. Your messages to major donors and qualified prospects should be much more personalized, and you should opt for one-on-one outreach instead of segmentation.
Here are a few ways to steward your major donors:
- Phone calls. Have a development officer, board member, or someone else significant to your organization make thank-you calls to major donors and update them on the status of any projects they were specifically interested in or involved with.
- Special events. Host events for your major donors, such as a gala, auction, site tour, or thank-you mixer. Give them the opportunity to network with one another while having an enjoyable night in their honor.
- Gifts. Send major donors a gift such as flowers, gift cards, or your nonprofit’s merchandise. Be sure to include a card expressing your gratitude alongside your chosen gift.
- Personalized videos. Enlist the help of your nonprofit’s beneficiaries in personalized thank-you videos for your major donors. Include a message from your beneficiaries and from your board members so that your major donors will be able to see the impact they’ve made.
- One-on-one meetings. One of the best ways to keep your major donors informed is to have meetings with them. Take this time to discuss the state of your organization as a whole, update them on the status of your projects and fundraising efforts, and let them know how much you appreciate their support.
This level of one-on-one communication can quickly become overwhelming without an organized approach in place. Graham-Pelton suggests that nonprofits use their prospect portfolios to assign major donors to specific gift officers, who will get to know each donor and take the lead on all communication with them going forward.
Personalize all communications
Personal outreach is an integral part of how you steward your relationships with your donors. Although you can take steps to personalize your communication to all donors, the scale of that personalization will change depending on their value and importance to your mission. For example, personalization is especially critical for your mid-level and major donors, because the support they give to your nonprofit is much more significant.
However, adding a personal touch to your communications for donors at lower levels is still essential. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Use the donor’s first and last name. Addressing your donors by name is an easy way to show them that you care. Modern email tools that integrate with your database make this an effortless process.
- Send handwritten letters. Although modern marketing is mostly digital, a handwritten letter speaks to the effort your nonprofit is making towards strengthening your relationship with your donors.
- Make phone calls. When you make a phone call to a donor, ask them about why they donated to your nonprofit and why your nonprofit is important to them. Take the time to listen and make your donors feel heard.
- Create a welcome email series. Use this automated email series to give new donors more information about your nonprofit and the impact that their first (and future) gifts will have.
- Show gratitude in a timely manner. Follow up with donors within 48 hours of their gift, whether it’s through a phone call or email.
You’ll need to scale these strategies for use with your broader donor base, or your nonprofit will be overwhelmed by donor communications. For example, it would be impossible to call every single one of your donors to thank them. Instead, set thresholds or create segments that sort donors into either personal outreach or automated thank-you email streams. Think flexibly about how you can scale your personalization strategies to fit your nonprofit.
Having a strong communication strategy is essential for the success of your nonprofit organization. Evaluate your marketing strategy by examining the efficacy of your previous communications, and determine what you need to change for a higher conversion rate. This will lead to a more effective communication strategy that will result in increased donor retention and stronger relationships.