Thursday Thoughts: thawing your supporter relationships for spring stewardship
Welcome to another installment of Thursday Thoughts, a dedicated space for our friends in nonprofit sector leadership to reflect on reports, statistics, and other trends—because when our community shares knowledge, we can all do more good. Check out our last installment here!
Many organizations reach out to donors at year-end, but some don’t have a plan to engage and retain those supporters after the new year. It’s important to avoid freezing out donors after the year-end season passes, so what are some strategies and tactics nonprofits can use to thaw their relationships with supporters and meet their spring stewardship goals? Here’s what two of our partners said.
Year-end donors want to feel appreciated, informed, and engaged with an organization beyond their gift. Fundraisers want to steward, renew, and upgrade these supporters throughout the year. Whether it’s due to a lack of time, technology that’s too difficult to use, or too many other competing priorities, creating a plan to retain these donors beyond year-end isn’t always easy or a top priority for busy staff.
Try these simple tactics to focus on retaining support and increasing engagement of year-end donors throughout the year:
- Take advantage of email automation and schedule an email to thank donors and let them know about other ways they can stay involved.
- Send a thoughtful thank you email after year-end. This should include details on the success of the campaign, and goals for using the revenue in the coming year.
- Ask (lower dollar) donors to become a sustainer in the first quarter of the year. This may seem odd because they just gave, but this is a useful opportunity to offer a way they can be engaged and show support all year long.
- Throughout the first quarter, personalize any fundraising appeals or action alerts to acknowledge that the donor gave at year-end. Make sure to include progress and milestones your organization has achieved and connect those achievements back to their support.
Authors Charlotte Kresse and Sally Heaven are the faces of Raise HECK. With a combined 40+ years of experience in nonprofits, software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology, and progressive spaces, they have helped some of the largest nonprofits in the country meet their technology, fundraising, and advocacy goals. Learn more about Raise HECK or get in touch!
Many nonprofits focus on GivingTuesday, holidays, and year-end fundraising appeals to generate excitement and support for their mission. Chances are your team ran campaigns to attract new donors and precious dollars to support your mission. The question now is: how do you keep these donors engaged in the months ahead?
For many organizations, the goal is to turn year-end giving campaigns into long-term relationships, and improving donor retention is an essential step in the journey. According to the 2021 Fundraising Effectiveness Project, just 18% of first-time donors make a gift the following year. For repeat donors, this rate is higher but still only 60%. One very important takeaway from these statistics is that building relationships with your donors and increasing your retention rate just slightly can yield meaningful growth. As you head into spring, it’s important to build stewardship plans that engage donors, make them feel part of your nonprofit’s continued success, and inspire loyalty.
Here are a few tips to get started:
- Understand your donors: Donors welcome the opportunity to have their voices heard, and the more you know about them and their motivation for supporting, the better you can engage them. Ask about their reason for giving and their communication preferences. Conduct surveys, organize focus groups, and invite feedback. You’ll learn from their input and engage them in the process.
- Communicate your results: Letting year-end donors know the impact of their gift is a great way to keep them engaged, so share impact stories, infographics, and results. Effective donor communication is segmented and strategic—use what you know about them to share stories that will resonate. A donor is more likely to feel good about giving if they know the impact of their investment.
- Connect online: Invite your donors to follow your nonprofit’s social channels. Here, they can stay informed about your organization’s impact and work, interact with your team, and share with their network.
- Engage and invite: Volunteering, events, and behind-the-scenes opportunities are gateways to financial support. Numerous data sources, including Mobilize, show that those who volunteer are more likely to donate. Deliberately connect donors with experiences to see their involvement and their investment making a difference.
Benefactor Group has won a reputation for innovative consulting and management services that build the capacity of nonprofit organizations; plan for and support capital, endowment, and comprehensive campaigns; and develop staff and volunteer leadership. Author Abby Shue is an accomplished nonprofit executive with 15 years of leadership experience in cultural organizations and a proven track record of coaching high-performing teams, building mission-driven relationships, developing data-informed strategy to exceed ambitious revenue goals, growing audiences, and advancing equity and inclusion.