Donor Communication for Nonprofits: Essentials & Best Practices

Fundraising is primarily about relationship building. Without donor communication, these relationships are shallow and less likely to continue. Donor communication plans are a vital part of fundraising. This article shares the essential elements of a donor communication plan and a few best practices your organization should include. What is Donor Communication? The Essential Elements of…

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Donor Communication for Nonprofits: Essentials & Best Practices

donor communicationFundraising is primarily about relationship building. Without donor communication, these relationships are shallow and less likely to continue. Donor communication plans are a vital part of fundraising.

This article shares the essential elements of a donor communication plan and a few best practices your organization should include.

  1. What is Donor Communication?
  2. The Essential Elements of a Donor Communication Plan
  3. Best Practices for Successful Donor Communication

What is Donor Communication?

Donor communication is any interaction between a nonprofit and its donors. Communication between the two can include everything from emails, social media, and direct mail, to phone calls, face-to-face conversations, and even events.

Nonprofits must create communication pieces that share powerful stories and donors’ impact, not just facts and figures. Organizations must also look for ways to create two-way conversations. The purpose of all communication between the two parties is to form relationships. These relationships are what encourage people to give and advocate for the organization for the long term.

The Essential Elements of a Donor Communication Plan

Nonprofits should include several elements in a Donor communication plan. With each of these, nonprofits must remember to collect as much information as possible. The more information a nonprofit has about its donors the better chance you have of building and strengthening essential relationships.

Communication and engagement tools are essential to gain your donors’ trust and retain them in your organization for years to come. This Donorbox video will explain to you how you can achieve all that by following a donor engagement cycle, creating a system of recognition, personalizing your communication, and more. Do give it a watch (great if you’re a quick visual learner!) –

1. A well-maintained donor database

Donor management starts with the right tools. With the right features, you can understand your donors, improve engagement and retention, and save time. Donor databases are vital to donor communication. A well-maintained database should include:

  • Unique donor records
  • Updated contact information
  • Ability to add important dates including birthdays and anniversaries
  • Donor interests
  • Ability to segment donor records
  • Donation tracking
  • Connections with other donors, including those who brought them into the organization
  • Integration with communication tools

Donorbox allows nonprofits to add this biographical information, keep track of donor communications, and add notes on donor interests. Nonprofits also receive notifications on donors’ first giving anniversary, when they give for the first time, cancel recurring donations, and when donors change the amount of their recurring gifts. Donorbox also lets donors have a dedicated account where they can manage their donation plans, QuickDonate to repeat a donation, and find their donation receipts anytime.

Pro tip: Create a single process for everyone in your office to follow when entering donor information. Following the same process ensures that all necessary details are collected and updated with each gift. Once you have these details on your donors, you can segment them into different categories based on the length of the involvement with the organization or interests.

2. Moves management

As you collect information on your donors, you should also create a plan that works for each donor or donor type. Many nonprofits will create a moves management plan for their major donors and prospects. If your organization wants to stay ahead of the game, you can also create similar moves management plans for donor categories like new donors, long-time donors, and volunteers.

Moves management includes listing all donors and donor types, creating a plan for each, and choosing different people to play a part in your communication efforts. To get the best results, nonprofits should use board members, volunteers, and donors to help carry out these communication plans.

3. Impactful content

Impactful stories and images should be included in all marketing and fundraising pieces. When a nonprofit shares these stories and images, they create a context for the donor and are more likely to see greater engagement and build better relationships.

Powerful success stories can be found anywhere. Organizations that have beneficiaries can ask for individuals’ history with the organization and how their lives have improved. Those that do not have a clear beneficiary can ask donors for their experiences and opinions on the organization.

Pro tip: When creating these stories, do not fall into the trap of bragging about the organization’s accomplishments. Donors don’t care about you, they care about themselves and how their donations make a difference. As often as possible, let donors know that these success stories would not be possible without their help.

4. Transparent giving methods

Imagine you’re sending donor communication emails or letters meant for your donors, telling them stories, inspiring them to give but they’re finding it difficult to help. In every communication piece, let your donors know how to donate, the various options available, and offer them the freedom to give the way they want.

5. Consistent update

In addition to sending success stories, you should also share reports of what the organization is doing to fulfill its mission. Donors want to know how the organization is using their money and if the nonprofit has been successful in reaching its goals. Regular updates on how your nonprofit is making a difference will keep donors happy. Gestures like this ensure the turning of one-time donors into recurring donors.

6. Timely acknowledgment

All nonprofits know that donor receipts are required. It is best practice to send these acknowledgments within 48 hours of their gifts. Online donation processors like Donorbox allow nonprofits to provide donors with an immediate and automatic receipt that can be customized beforehand.

But acknowledgment should also be done in a few other ways:

  • Phone calls from board members and the executive director
  • Send personal notes and cards
  • Have a virtual donor wall on your website or the donation page
  • Highlight donors and their gifts during events, and on social media
  • Offer facility tours to major and recurring donors

This type of communication after a donor gift will help strengthen the relationship between the donor and the organization. When your organization creates a communication plan for each donor and donor type, it is best to include these acknowledgment activities and spread them out throughout the year.

7. Feedback

Finally, your conversations with donors should never be one-way. In addition to stories and progress reports, you can send surveys, call donors, meet face to face to hear donors’ opinions on the pieces you sent out.

Your nonprofit can send surveys by email, social media, or add them to your website and online donor page. When you receive responses to these surveys, be sure to respond and thank them for their time.

3 Best Practices for Successful Donor Communication

Successful donor communication relies on different best practices. The following will help nonprofits reach and communicate better with different types of donors.

1. Segment donors for personalized communication

Segmenting donors into different categories significantly helps nonprofits create a communication plan. Individuals who have been with the organization for years will require less background knowledge on the nonprofit than newer donors. Donors who can give larger amounts may also want to know more details than other supporters. When segmenting donors, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much do they regularly give?
  • How long have they been with the organization?
  • What are their interests?
  • Demographic distinctions?

On Donorbox, it is rather easy to segment your donor records into many categories through simple, dropdown filters. Here’s how it looks –

donor communications best practices

Pro tip: When creating specific forms for a campaign, you can also connect donation amounts with specific types of donors. For instance, if a group of donors has given $1,000 or more in the past, you should send a separate campaign form with amounts starting at $1,000. By doing this, you may encourage these donors to give more.

2. Start the communication as early as possible

Do not wait until your donor makes more than one donation or shows more interest in your organization. Start implementing your donor communication plan as soon as they’ve made the first donation. Let each donor know how important they’re to your nonprofit and cultivate that relationship for bigger gifts and a long-lasting effect.

3. Turn donors into advocates

Donors are great, but advocates can be even better. Nonprofits that encourage advocacy, will see greater outreach and more long-term involvement from their community. Organizations should motivate donors by sharing specific ways they can support and increase the impact. These are some of the most effective ways to make that happen:

  • Ask donors to share social media posts from your organization.
  • Encourage donors to invite friends and family to events or to tour the facility.
  • Invite donors to start peer-to-peer or crowdfunding campaigns for your nonprofit.

Bonus – Find a free donor communication best practices guide on Donorbox Library, which will help you create deeper connections with your donors – download it for free!

Final Thoughts

Donor communication is essential to your organization’s future. Following the above practices and creating communication plans for each donor type ensure that your nonprofit will see financial gains in no time.

If your nonprofit is looking for a new donor management system, Donorbox offers an affordable option. With our donor database system, nonprofits can collect vital information, add notes and receive notifications on significant dates. Our integrations will ensure effective donor communication for your organization.

Donorbox is primarily a fundraising solution that offers nonprofits several more features to help raise funds online including crowdfunding, text-to-give, peer-to-peer fundraising, recurring donation forms, membership programs, etc.

Learn more ways to fundraise and manage your organization with our weekly blog posts and remember to subscribe to our newsletter to fuel your fundraising efforts.

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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