4 Best Practices of Donor Stewardship and Engagement
Update: This blog post was updated in July 2021 to include updated information about donor relationship management and retention best practices.
So you’ve successfully applied your donor acquisition strategy and people have chosen to partner with your organization. Great! But how do you keep donors engaged and steward donor relationships? Before you can engage your donors, the first step is that you have to understand how they want to be engaged. This is different for every organization, so knowing your donors is very important. Hopefully you have a good idea already, but if not, here are a few basic rules to follow.
Starting Your Donor Engagement Plan
We all know building relationships with donors is important, especially when you’re asking them to open their wallets and purses to give their hard-earned money. Most people won’t give to an organization until they first understand your mission and see the impact that your organization is making. Once they do decide to give, keeping them engaged is crucial to the future success of your mission. Your donor engagement plan starts with first understanding who they are and how they want to be engaged. Then, develop effective strategies to maintain communication.
1. Develop Donor Relationships
Knowing your donors is very important, so familiarizing yourself with who your target audience is can help exponentially in developing both your donor relationships and your engagement and retention strategies.
Have you ever known someone that you rarely heard from unless they wanted/needed something from you? Remember how annoying that was and how that made you feel? You probably don’t want your donors to feel that way about your organization.
Many times, organizations never talk to their donors unless they need money. That’s why getting to know your donors, and creating actual relationships, helps build trust between that donor and your organization. Simply having a quick conversation and finding out more about their interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes is an easy way to get the ball rolling. Taking a little time to get to know your donors will not only improve your relationship with them, but it will translate to more support and loyalty for your cause!
2. Manage Donor Preferences & Information
There are so many great donor management software options out now, but a regular spreadsheet will work, too. Organizing your donor information allows you to quickly send out info only to the donors that have preferences. Some great things to keep tabs on about your donors might be:
- What is their preferred communication channel? Email? Social Media? Text? Phone?
- What is the frequency of communication?
- Are they drawn to certain programs?
- What is their generational demographics?
- Do they have any affiliations with your organization?
- What is their preferred giving method? Online? Text? Cash? Check?
- What is their annual gift level?
3. Strategize Donor Communication Steps
When you take time to get to know your donors, and their specific preferences, you’ll know how to best reach them when it comes time to make an ask for a donation or to volunteer. Some key things to keep in mind when reaching out are:
- Let them know why you need their help
- Give them a call to action (be specific on what you need & why they would be the right person)
- Show photos or share stories showing specifically how the donations you receive help, or the impact their time could have
- Make the call to action easy for them to volunteer or give right there on the spot.
4. Apply Donor-Centric Gratitude
Make sure your donors know you value them and appreciate their time/donation no matter how much or how little it may be. A few ways you might show appreciation or offer some thoughtful gifts might be:
- A handwritten note
- A quick phone call
- A text or email
- A social media post
- Send flowers
- Invite them to lunch / dinner
- Throw an appreciation party
- Recognize special volunteers or donors that have really made an impact for your organization
No matter how you decide to engage your donors, be genuine. You’ll not only receive their respect and appreciation, but you also receive their support in return.