Nonprofit organizations put forth much effort, and often invest significant resources, into soliciting and maintaining a steady stream of contributions from committed donors. However, once the donations are received, what many nonprofits often overlook is the necessary practice of appropriately showing appreciation for and valuing the donors themselves. By overlooking this key component, nonprofits are depriving themselves of an important perspective. As public agencies dependent upon external donations, the better we understand and meet the needs of our public stakeholders, the more likely our chances of establishing the long-term donor relationships that are paramount to the successes of our organizations.
When a donor decides to contribute to your organization and its mission, it is often because he or she feels that the services you provide are helping to fill an essential gap in the community or perhaps there is a more personal connection to the services you provide. Whatever the reason, the donor specifically chose to support your agency. Therefore, donors want to feel a personal connection with the clients that were and continue to be aided by your organization.
First, it is important to take a close look at how your agency currently thanks its donors for their contributions and how it goes about fostering donor relationships to keep them dedicated to your organization’s mission for the long-term. Staggering statistics from the 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey have reported that for every $100 of new funds raised, $100 was lost due to downgraded or lapsed gifts. Further, for every new 100 donors secured, nonprofits lost 107 donors through attrition. Appropriate and thoughtful action is required on behalf of the nonprofit agency to stay way ahead of this astounding trend.
Once your organization has a solid understanding of its current (and potential) donor base, it is time to focus on the needs of the donors to begin building those vital long-term relationships. Often donors want to feel a personal connection with clients that have benefited from the nonprofits that they have supported. Consider providing a detailed update (as well as appeals) rather than simply relying on short form letters or tweets. Building that personal connectivity to your mission fosters long-term dedication.
Share progress with your donors, no matter how small. What matters to them is that they feel like they are making a difference. Show them the little things, too, that are just as important to advancing your cause and improving the lives of others. Perhaps a personal testimonial or an impressive statistic will make a lasting impression. Send a special invitation – without soliciting for another donation. Perhaps to your next free event, a behind-the-scenes tour, or simply a volunteer activity that will connect them personally with those that directly benefit from their continued contributions. The possibilities are endless and, rest assured, the little creative effort it takes on behalf of your organization to reach out to your donors will come back to both you and your clients for many years to come.