Nonprofits are struggling to connect donors with the cause—but these four donor engagement best practices can open up new communication channels.
At the start of the pandemic, donors came through for the organizations they care about in record numbers. But as the pandemic wore on and COVID aid ended, nonprofits still needed help, and donors began to feel tired and strapped for cash.
In The State of Nonprofit Fundraising 2022, we found 30% of nonprofits reported donor fatigue as a significant barrier to their fundraising success. However, 27% of nonprofits are struggling to develop major donors and large gifts.
Though the disconnect between nonprofits and their supporters is slowly improving as people begin to gather in-person again, fundraisers are still struggling to emotionally connect their donors with the cause. 33% of respondents said donor engagement is the greatest challenge they face in fundraising this year.
So what can nonprofits do about it?
Donor Engagement Through New Communication Channels
In 2021, we found that the majority of nonprofits used social media campaigns to connect and engage with their donors (73% of those surveyed). While 72% of nonprofits used personal phone calls, 69% said they relied on email newsletters to get the word out.
But that’s only a small handful of ways you can connect with your donors! If you’re having trouble engaging donors on the deeper level that truly drives giving—give something else a try.
Donors are inundated with email, and their social media feeds are packed. Everyone is trying the same tactics and channels to get in front of donors, and at some point, people start to tune it out. To reach them, you’ll need to try something different and new.
- Write essays or articles for special or niche publications in your cause area to court and recruit professionals in the field.
- Get an interview for your leadership on a podcast or radio show to discuss the cause and why it matters.
- Conduct your next publicity campaign on a local radio station.
- Don’t forget that snail mail still exists—and it still works. A handwritten note or letter can go a very long way in making a donor feel appreciated, and it’s a fantastic way to begin building a long-lasting relationship.
- Fundraising fliers sent home with kids
- in-person meetings and one-on-one meetings
- Donor appreciation events (special events?)
Use Multi-Channel Marketing to Communicate Your Message
What does “multi-channel” mean? Multi-channel marketing means spreading the word about a specific event or campaign through many different methods of communication.
Your upcoming capital campaign, for example, could be targeted at specific demographics of donors through a planned social media blitz, a radio spot, and a snail mailer. Interacting with an individual through multiple channels increases brand recognition, and each method may reach different demographics of donors.
And with multi-channel marketing, you can also target those demographics with greater precision! Use different messaging, voice and calls-to-action in each channel to better personalize your outreach and increase the chance of a response.
Small, Special, and Focused Donor Events
We discovered something surprising in The State of Nonprofit Fundraising data: 40% of nonprofits said they used virtual events and virtual tours to engage and cultivate donors last year.
That means personalized virtual tours of facilities, small and stewardship-focused events, and other fun and engaging activities in your cause area—all conducted online!
Nearly half of nonprofits plan to continue reaching and cultivating donors with these types of unique, non-gala events. 48% said they plan to increase their focus on special events this year.
- 46% said in-person special events would be very important or critical to total annual revenue in 2022.
- 26% said virtual special events would be very important or critical to annual revenue this year.
Engage Donors In-Person
With the set-in of donor fatigue, and rising competition for limited fundraising dollars, nonprofits need to step up their game if they want to win that major gift.
Those routine check-in calls with your major donors? Move that call to an in-person meeting! The face time demonstrates your commitment to the relationship, and makes your donor feel appreciated and valued. At a time when big donors are getting so many asks from organizations in need—45% of nonprofits surveyed said competition with other organizations was a major challenge to meeting their revenue goals. That’s why it is critical to put yourself at the front of the pack with these best practices.
And it’s not just your major donors who need face time. The State of Nonprofit Fundraising found that 34% of nonprofits struggle to engage their board members in fundraising. Meet with your board members in person, too! It’s more important than ever to make your board members and donors feel special and find out what they need in order to feel fully engaged in—and excited about your cause.
By adding these best practices into your donor engagement plan you can see greater success and reach your fundraising goals.