Elevate Your Impact, Achieve Your Mission

High donor engagement is an indication of a healthy organization.

Donor engagement is a measure of how active and involved your supporters are with your organization.  Strong donor engagement leads to better donor retention. Donors that support your organization year after year provide sustainability and allow for growth.  

Monitoring levels of donor engagement enables your team to take action. For instance, if a donor hasn’t opened your emails or donated in over a year, they may be considered a "lapsed donor." A lapsed donor strategy may help you re-engage those who may have dropped off your active donor list. Other strategies include upgrading donors to monthly recurring donors or inviting long-time supporters to consider making a planned gift.  

A strong donor engagement strategy allows your organization to focus time and energy on stewarding donors rather than spending money to acquire new donors. Great donor engagement will save your organization time and money and provide increased financial stability. 

Engaged donors will share their passion for your organization with their network of friends, family, and colleagues. Donor advocates give additional credibility to your organization and help expand your reach without having to spend as much of your budget. 

Follow these 10 strategies to boost your donor engagement.

Strategy 1: Personalize Communication

People prefer personalization. In a world where people feel bombarded with advertisements, emails, social media, and more they have begun to tune out messages that aren’t tailored to them or their interests.  

Personalized messages acknowledge the relationship you have with your donors. When you personalize your messages you develop trust by showing you listen, understand, and respond to their specific needs or preferences. Research indicates that personalized communication produces better results. 

Strong donor engagement requires getting to know your donors. In the messages, you can include what you know about supporters, such as their name, latest donation amount, or specific areas of interest. You can also use behavior as a way to personalize communications. For example, send a special note to first-time donors thanking them for their contribution or email a thank you to those who responded to a special appeal. 

Effective personalized communication channels include:

  • Handwritten notes
  • Phone calls
  • Mailings
  • Emails
  • Digital advertising
  • Text messages
  • Videos

Personalized communication may take a bit more time, but the results are well worth the effort. 

Strategy 2: Share Impact Stories

Stories inspire action. Statistics may be helpful, but they don’t provide the same emotional impact as a story. Storytelling allows donors to see authentic examples of how your organization makes a difference. Stories help you elaborate on your mission in a way that invites supporters to see the return on their investments. 

You can tell stories on any platform, with any channel. Tell a short story or a longer one depending on the platform. Use digital channels, such as social media, email, and your website to share stories. Include them in your mailing appeals, newsletters, giving statements, and annual reports. Go a step further and tell them over the phone or in a short video.     

Collect stories and reuse them in various ways. Your impact stories will inspire supporters to donate again, volunteer, become board members, and become lifelong advocates.  

Strategy 3: Express Gratitude

Saying thank you is crucial to building donor engagement and retention. Supporters don't give their time and money to your organization in order to be thanked, however, studies suggest that donors will give again if they are thanked for their gifts. 

First-time donors, especially, should be thanked promptly and personally before being asked for another contribution. Failing to express gratitude makes donors feel unappreciated and disconnected from your organization. 

Don’t reserve gratitude for only high-level donors. Donors who give smaller gifts need to know their gift matters to you and your organization. Sometimes, a simple thank you is enough to turn a one-time donor into a major donor. 

Like sharing impact stories, use all the communication channels available to you to show appreciation. You can automate some forms of communication, like email, but don’t rely on it. 

Depending on what you are thanking the supporter for, you can 

  • Call 
  • Recognize them publicly
  • Email
  • Send a video
  • Invite them for coffee
  • Highlight them on social media
  • Invite them for an office tour
  • Send a handwritten note

The more personal and immediate your thank you is, the more likely you are to develop a lifelong supporter. 

Strategy 4: Create Opportunities for Donor Involvement

Donor engagement can also be increased by involving donors in hands-on activities or volunteering. Donors who also volunteer are more likely to acquire a deeper understanding of your mission and grow in their financial generosity. 

Invite donors to interact with your organization on social media by liking and commenting on your posts.  Include links to your social media in emails to make posting quick and easy. Look for ways to increase involvement such as attending events, volunteering, or serving on committees or advisory boards.  

Investing both time and financial resources strengthens the relationship between your donors and your organization. Providing multiple opportunities for getting involved will build trust and strengthen commitment. 

Strategy 5: Foster a Sense of Community

Communities are built around shared interests. Because of their investment in your organization, your donors have expressed an interest in your mission and vision. Their support is an indication of their willingness to help you succeed in accomplishing your goals and objectives. 

Donors may rally around specific projects or ministries your organization serves. You can also create communities with donors who share the same profession, like doctors, teachers, or pastors. 

Consider organizing different types of communities.

Events: Start an online, in-person, or hybrid event that complements your mission. Galas and golf tournaments are common events, but may not work for your organization. Instead offer classes, concerts, film festivals, prayer walks, or game nights.

Online Forums: Bring donors together around a specific topic and provide questions to get them talking. This is a great way for them to delve deeper into your organization. You will also learn more about donors' passions and deepen relationships among donors. 

Gatherings: Provide exclusive opportunities for donors to get together. You can invite speakers from your organization to make a presentation or ask a donor to share why they love your organization.  

Deepening donor engagement doesn’t stop when you create the community. Your communities need to be nurtured in order to grow. Through connections with fellow donors, you will instill a great love for your organization and give your donors a renewed sense of purpose. 

Strategy 6: Simplify the Donation Process

Giving should be quick, easy, and fun! The conversion rate for many donation pages is only 22%. Over three-fourths of people who visit the donation page decide not to make a gift.  One of the main reasons people don’t donate is because the process is too complicated.

With a seamless donation process, you will not only receive more donations, but the donors will enjoy the experience and give again. 

To streamline the online donation process only include the form fields you need to process the donation. Do you need their phone number? Do you need them to sign into an account first? How many pages of forms must they complete before finishing the process? Every step and every form field adds friction, so be sure to only include what is absolutely necessary. 

And don’t forget to optimize the experience for mobile devices. 

Strategy 7: Recognize Donor Milestones

Along with thanking donors for their gifts, it is also appropriate to recognize them when they reach milestones. Consider various anniversaries such as the date of their first gift,  five or ten years of giving, or when a pledge is fulfilled. 

There are many ways you can acknowledge their milestones. You can email, text, call them or send a handwritten note. Your strategy should include not one, but a combination of these communication channels. 

Employ your creativity to recognize these milestones. Give them a shout-out on social media, send a personalized certificate, or honor them at an event.

When you recognize a donor's milestones, you provide an opportunity for further donor engagement and affirm they are a valuable member of the organization.    

Strategy 8: Engage with Social Media

Don’t underestimate the impact of social media on donor engagement.

It’s easy for donors to follow, like, comment, and share content from your social media pages. You don’t need to use every social media platform. Instead, choose ones appropriate for your community. 

Social media can help you build relationships with donors. As donors see your content on social media, it raises their awareness of your mission and keeps them informed about what is happening. It also allows your donors to advocate for your organization. They can share messages with their followers and initiate peer-to-peer fundraising as well. 

To get the most engagement from donors on social media 

  • Create compelling content using articles, videos, and photos.
  • Utilize storytelling
  • Provide value (e-books, courses, devotions, etc.)
  • Share impact stories
  • Foster dialogue    
  • Be authentic

The purpose of social media is to build community through engagement. Be consistent and intentional with your content and donors will respond. 

Strategy 9: Collaborate with Like-Minded Organizations

If you need to re-energize your nonprofit or donor base, consider a partnership with another organization that shares a similar mission or complementary goals. There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. Odds are you can find another like-minded organization. 

Through a partnership, your organization can improve donor engagement by improving your range of services or ministries. It will also help you raise awareness of your organization, strengthen your advocacy efforts, and allow you to expand new programs.

Working with new organizations will bring together different individuals, with different experiences, and new perspectives. Collaboration will help your organization tackle problems in unique ways you hadn’t considered. With a great partnership, you will find a fresh outlook and rejuvenated team members and donors.  

Strategy 10: Continuously Evaluate and Improve

Donor engagement is a continual process. You need to review, evaluate, and implement your plans at every stage. The work of donor engagement is never complete. 

Even with high donor engagement, your organization will have donors who lapse and are at risk. By monitoring and evaluating donor engagement, you will discover ways to improve communication and relationships. 

When evaluating donor engagement review:

Data: Analyze your donor data from numerous sources, such as your CRM, website, email, social media platforms, and surveys. 

Feedback: Gather anecdotal feedback from surveys, phone calls, and meetings. In this form, you can learn about the donor’s perspectives on the vision, mission, and future of your organization.   

After you complete the evaluation, implement changes based on your findings. In this way, you will improve your donor engagement.

Make It Personal

To encourage the highest levels of donor engagement, personalize all your communications. Create opportunities for your donors, while fostering a sense of community. Recognize donor milestones, express your gratitude, and share impact stories along the way. Use all the communication channels available, especially social media. Finally, keep the donation process simple. 

To add a new dimension of donor engagement, consider partnerships with other organizations. Before and during your campaigns, review the data and feedback you receive to improve performance and build relationships.

By following these 10 proven strategies, your organization can elevate its donor engagement efforts, strengthen its impact, and build a loyal community of supporters dedicated to your cause. You got this!

You may also like

Empower Nonprofit Board Members to Help Retain Donors
Empower Nonprofit Board Members to Help Retain Donors
22 August, 2023

Do you want board members who can assist the fundraising team? If you do, then you need to help them. One of the best wa...

Why Your High-Capacity Donors Aren’t Giving More
Why Your High-Capacity Donors Aren’t Giving More
17 October, 2019

Every church has high-capacity donors. Depending on the size and location of your church, you may define who qualifies a...

How to Reach Every Household in Your Annual Campaign
How to Reach Every Household in Your Annual Campaign
29 August, 2018

You’ve just returned from vacation to discover you’ve been unanimously selected to chair the annual stewardship campaign...