Nonprofit Communications Plan: All You Should Know

Nonprofits often struggle with little funding and fewer people to create a communications plan and personally connect with supporters. Even though they’re sending out emails and social media posts on a regular basis, the lack of personalization and targeted communication may make all that ineffective. Donors end up feeling like an ATM and care less…

9 minutes read
Nonprofit Communications Plan: All You Should Know

nonprofit communication

Nonprofits often struggle with little funding and fewer people to create a communications plan and personally connect with supporters. Even though they’re sending out emails and social media posts on a regular basis, the lack of personalization and targeted communication may make all that ineffective.

Donors end up feeling like an ATM and care less about giving to your organization. On the other hand, volunteers who aren’t appreciated and acknowledged often feel left out and demotivated. This means even less funding and fewer supporters.

A nonprofit communications plan may take more time, but it means you get to keep your donors and volunteers happy. No worries – it doesn’t cost a lot. You’ll be needing a secure donor database and people who will help you make and execute the plan. The time and the effort will be all worth it!

This article includes the following points to help you better connect with their supporters.

  1. What’s Included in a Nonprofit Communications Plan?
  2. 5 Communication Pieces Nonprofits Must Send out
  3. The 4 Most Important Nonprofit Communication Channels

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What’s Included in a Nonprofit Communications Plan?

A nonprofit communications plan should be created for each donor and include several steps and various tools.

1. Donor management system

The best communication plans start with quality donor information, which nonprofits can store and track using a donor management system.

The first step in any communication plan is to know why you’re communicating with your donor. The reason is different for each donor, so in the beginning, you must ask a few questions about each donor.

  • What was the donor’s first contact with the organization?
  • What was their reason for giving?
  • How much they gave or what was the average donation amount?
  • Have they signed up for recurring giving or membership programs?
  • Have they recently canceled a regular giving plan or made other changes?
  • Which campaigns did they give to the most?
  • How do they like to be contacted?
  • What do you want them to do next?

You must enter answers to all the above questions (and more) in your donor management tool. If not, it’s time that you chose one that helps make this happen.

Donorbox Donor Management automatically collects donor information from the donation form and securely stores them in the database. You can also manually add an offline donor and update existing donor records. Donorbox lets you add communication notes and select the channels used to communicate with the donors (shown below).

nonprofit communications plan

In addition, you can segment your donor records as per various filters (shown below) that will help you get the answers to the above questions. Nonprofits also get triggered alerts for important moments like when a donor has given for the first time, their first donation anniversary, and in case of any changes to their recurring giving plan.

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2. Moves management

Once you have enough donor information to segment donors, it’s time to create a moves management plan to walk you through the steps.

Moves management is often used for major donor communication but can be designed for every donor type. The purpose is to build and strengthen relationships with donors.

With clear goals, plans, and follow-through, nonprofits can turn one-time donors into long-term supporters of the organization.

3. Compelling storytelling

Each communication tool requires a compelling story. The primary communication piece is an appeal letter. Donor appeal letters must have compelling storytelling that entices donors to give.

Donors will react better to stories about individuals than facts and figures. An exciting story can bring the donor along on the beneficiary’s path. Donors can watch their lives improve with the help of your organization and their support.

Storytelling can be everywhere, not just on email appeals. You can share stories on your social media, on a dedicated page on the website, on welcome letters, and especially in thank-yous. As you send donors an update for a donation, ensure to include an impact story along with it.

4. Real images, videos, and impact data

Once a supporter donates, you have a chance to build on that relationship. When you send welcomes, thank-yous, or updates, ensure you have real images, videos, and numbers to support the content.

Post them on your social media and add them to your email messages. You can also redirect donors to the donation page where you have added all these pieces of data in detail. You should also share your impact report with your donors, which will anyway include all these details and establish their trust in your organization.

This touch of reality would make your donors feel included in your cause and they’d want to know more about what you’ll be doing in the future.

5. Communication tools

Communication tools are essential for you to implement your nonprofit communications plan. To start with, you’ll be needing a prospect research tool that helps you identify potential donors and determine the giving ability of your existing donor base. This ensures you reach out to them with the correct information and tone.

Once you’ve identified people you want to reach out to, it is time to plan your communications. You’d be needing a tool like Asana that helps you keep track of everything at all times.

At last, choose tools that help you send out your communication pieces. Tools like Sendinblue, Typeform, etc. make sending your emails and surveys easier than ever. The best thing is that these tools come with free signup options for you to get started.

Watch this video from Donorbox for proven strategies and communication tools to strengthen your donor trust –

6. Key performance indicators

You need to monitor the success of your communications plan. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like the number of new donors, visits to your website, and shares on social media are ways to track if your communication has the desired outcome.

Social media, email, website companies, donor management systems, and fundraising platforms all have their own tracking systems to help you measure these and other KPIs. On Donorbox, you can track donor communications and apply filters on donors as well as donations data to find out certain performance indicators.

Remember to choose KPIs that fit your communication goals. If the purpose of a communication piece is to turn donors into advocates for your organization, you must focus on KPIs that measure online sharing, new visitors and donors, sign-ups to your peer-to-peer campaigns, money raised by each advocate, etc.

Monitoring your KPIs helps assure you that your communication is on the right track.

5 Communication Pieces Nonprofits Must Send out

communications plan for nonprofit

Nonprofit communication involves everything from collecting donor information to sending communication pieces.

Deciding what to write and which communication pieces you should send depends on where you are in the communication process, where the donor fits in your strategic plan, and what you’ve already sent.

Donor communication pieces usually fit one of 5 options.

1. Welcome

If the individual is new to your organization, it’s only right to introduce yourself. A welcome letter or email is an excellent way to explain more about your organization, share how their gifts have an impact, and ask them to join you on the next step.

After that, it’s time to ask them more about themselves. You should already have some basic donor information, but your welcome letter is a chance to get more. You can send a survey to donors asking more about why they care about your mission or if they have any questions or suggestions for your nonprofit.

Don’t forget to add all the information you receive to your organization’s donor database. Donorbox lets you add all communication notes to your donor records as well as update any existing details. This helps your team keep track of all donors and past communications, no matter who handled them earlier.

2. Solicitation

After introducing yourself and sharing how donors can help you reach your mission, you can finally ask for a gift. If your donor has donated to a program, you already know what they care about, but most people coming to your nonprofit won’t make it that easy.

The information you’ve collected from the donor’s first contact and your welcome letter or email can help you decide which appeal will have the best chance of getting the gift.

Which donors only give to a specific program? Which ones may be interested in membership? Who has the financial capacity to give more?

You must create personalized appeals for various donor types. These appeals can provide donors with differences in programs, real stories of beneficiaries, and suggested donation amounts.

3. Donor or volunteer thank-yous

Thank-yous must be sent out to donors as well as volunteers. Both types of communication pieces must be personalized in different ways and with different tones of communication.

A personal touch is what makes all the difference. It helps people feel like they’re more than just a number to you. It also encourages them to give or volunteer again. Sending a personal thank-you can start a lasting relationship with your supporters.

Some charities send letters, handwritten cards, or hold a thank-a-thon where board members or volunteers directly call the donor. For volunteers, you can write an email thank-you or give them meaningful rewards.

In your thank-yous, always address the donor or volunteer by their name and include details about their donation (or effort) and specific impact to build a personal connection.

4. Updates

Nonprofits send updates for various reasons. Primarily, organizations will share updates on a campaign or program to encourage donors to give. If you choose to hold a peer-to-peer campaign, nonprofits must send regular updates to volunteers to keep donors aware of how their gifts make a difference.

Supplying updates is an excellent way to keep people interested and encourage trust in the organization.

Nonprofits can make these updates personal by sending details that best fit the donors’ and volunteers’ interests. This is another time when the information you’ve collected in your donor management system will come in handy.

5. Feedback/Surveys

Another communication piece to include in your plan is feedback and surveys.

Donors appreciate it when nonprofits ask them for more than money. Surveys and conversations with donors discussing how they would improve the nonprofit’s programs or what they feel about the donation process, etc., help supporters feel closer to the mission.

Volunteers are some of your organization’s strongest supporters. These individuals are closer to beneficiaries and have more intimate contact with them. They will know if your nonprofit’s programs are achieving what you hope. You must find ways to get feedback from your volunteers, so including a survey or exit interview in your volunteer program is vital.

The 4 Most Important Nonprofit Communication Channels

Technology has given nonprofits several ways to connect with donors. However, the traditional mailing methods cannot be completely ruled out either.

Deciding which one to choose depends on the answer to earlier questions.

If you’re sending a welcome or thank-you letter, a personal card or note is probably best. If you’re sending out a solicitation or an update, you’ll need to send an email, social media post, or make a phone call.

1. Email

An email has proven to be an effective tool for many nonprofits. Despite the warnings that email is dead, the number of emails sent and received continues to grow.

The average nonprofit email open and click-through rates are more than any social media post. Personalized email subject lines can significantly affect whether your email ends up in the donors’ inbox or spam. Donors are 26% more likely to open an email with their name and a statement or question that catches their eye.

Another plus is how quick and easy it is to track email communication. Nonprofits that want to educate their donors can send newsletters with updates on programs and events. Organizations can send these monthly and also track how many supporters read them and click on links.

2. Social media

Social media can be an excellent way to introduce your nonprofit to a new audience. Personalizing social media posts is difficult, but there are ways to connect with donors using social media that aren’t available with other technology.

Social media is the only place where you can reach your donors as well as potential ones. A lot of people come to know about your organization and the impact you’re creating. You can post regular updates, highlight your volunteers’ hard work, and thank donors by tagging them on your social media. This adds to social proof that grabs more eyeballs and attracts new people to your nonprofit.

Ensure you have a dedicated person overseeing your social media and the messages. Potential and existing donors often send direct messages asking about updates or to clear any doubts. You must have a real person handling these queries and adding these communication notes to your donor database.

Donorbox lets you select the channel while adding any new communication note to your donor record, as shown below.

non profit communications plan

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3. Mail

Getting a handwritten card is so rare these days that people will stop what they’re doing to open it up and see what’s inside. Thanking donors is an excellent reason to send a handwritten card.

Nonprofits may be concerned about the time it takes to write and send out these cards. Businesses like Simply Noted offer automated handwritten cards you can integrate with your donor database. You can send cards with the donor’s name, a personal note, and a board member’s or director’s signature. These cards have realistic handwriting and use real ink, so your donors will feel like you took the time to write them yourself.

In this podcast episode, Donorbox converses with Joe Leach, the President of AppealMaker, to offer you 3 implementable direct mail hacks for making the most of your donation appeals.

4. Phone calls

Once again, you may think phone calls will take up a lot of your time and need human resources. But these calls turn out to be really effective for donation appeals and thank-yous.

You don’t have to make a phone call every time you need donations. However, once every month or quarter, you can ask a few volunteers to make phone calls to your donors. It’s up to you to decide which donors you want to call up. It may be only the major donors or recurring donors or your members.

To personalize your scripts for these calls, you’d need to segment your donors further and find out details about their campaign preferences and donations.

A thank-a-thon is also a great way to engage your volunteers and staff members and to express gratitude to donors via phone calls.

One Last Thing

A nonprofit communication plan can’t be one of those things nonprofits consider a luxury. Donor relationships are vital to the growth of a nonprofit; so are relationships with your volunteers. Hence, communicating in the right way at the right time is a plan worth working on.

Learn more about donor management tips, tactics, and tools, and more on the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a curated list of the best Donorbox resources every month in your inbox.

Donorbox lets you securely store and manage your donor data as well as integrate with top CRM tools like Salesforce, HubSpot, Blackbaud RE NXT, and more. We also make the donation process faster and simpler for your donors with features like Donorbox UltraSwift™ Pay and QuickDonate. Check out all these features as well as our simple-to-use and most popular fundraising features on the website. Donorbox is free to sign up and requires no monthly contracts or documentations. Get started now!

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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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