Frightfully Good Fundraising, Part 6: Don’t Ghost Your Donors

Marketing and Social Media

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It’s 11:30 p.m. One of your donors is catching up on her personal emails after a long day. Suddenly, a bloodcurdling shriek splits the air—she’s gotten an email from someone she hasn’t heard from in months. Someone she thought she’d never hear from again. Someone she thought was long gone.

It’s… you.

She made a gift to you back in May, and she hasn’t heard from you since. Not since the automated donation receipt, anyway. After she made that gift, you just… disappeared.

There’s a ton of emphasis in the nonprofit world on acquiring new donors. And that’s good! Everyone should think about how to expand their donor base. But less emphasis is put on keeping those donors once they make a gift. And that’s a problem! Retaining donors is more cost-effective than constantly finding new ones, but the industry’s donor retention rate hovers around 45%.

To keep your donors engaged with your work (and with giving to you!), they need ongoing communication. Don’t ghost your donors or, worse, relegate them to a list that only gets an appeal every six months or so. Instead, take some time to get a good communication strategy in place.

Here are a few key elements of a great donor communication strategy:

  • Thank-you messages: get creative with these! You can always email online donors, of course. But what about thank-you cards? Or cards they get a year after their first gift, like an anniversary card? What about taking a few minutes to give them a call? These are all really effective ways to build relationships with the people who support you… and they don’t have to take forever. For more ideas, check out this infographic, “Five Donor Retention Practices You Can Do In Five Minutes or Less.”
  • Impact letters: show and tell your donors what they accomplished! Tailor these to your donors’ experiences with you. If someone gave to your new building campaign, let them know how construction is going and how their gift helped get you there. If they gave to a specific program, share how the program is making a difference in others’ lives. Your donors gave to you because they wanted to make a difference. Showing them the difference they made will improve the odds that they give again.
  • Donor surveys: What inspired your donor to give? What kind of information could inspire them to give again? What did they think of the last event they attended? You’ll never know unless you ask! Donor surveys are a powerful relationship-building tool, and they can help you refine your fundraising efforts and generate more revenue. You can learn more about donor surveys by watching this super-great (and super-free) webinar.

There are so many great ways to communicate with donors. All of them, if done correctly, can improve your fundraising and donor retention rates. They might even help you recruit new donors—very satisfied donors are likely to tell their friends and family members about your organization!

Don’t ghost your donors. Focus on regular, uplifting, inspiring communication that keeps them engaged with your mission. To help you get started building a great plan, you can download this donor stewardship template—download it, customize it, and use it!

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