Every development professional I know spends a lot of time thinking about how they can get their current donors more engaged with their fundraising efforts. We ask questions like, “How can I get our donors to get involved on an event committee?” And, “How can we get Mr. Smith to introduce us to his colleagues in the legal profession?”
Generally, the answer on how to get a particular donor, or group of donors, more engaged isn’t a one shot ask, meeting, or phone call. Instead, the best way to get your donors more engaged is to develop a strong, organization-wide donor cultivation program that keeps your supporters informed and energized about your mission and current initiatives.
Your donor engagement plan should focus on the following five components:
First and foremost, you should keep your donors energized about your mission. Donors can forget a lot of things and still stay interested in supporting a non-profit… what they can’t lose sight of is the reason your organization exists: your mission. Spend time making sure your donors hear stories about the people you help, see pictures of the work that you do, and understand why your work is vital and necessary in today’s world.
Your donors want to feel like they are part of your team. The best way to ensure that they do feel like a part of your team is to keep them informed. Let your supporters know what your latest successes and initiatives are. Make sure they understand recent changes at your organization, know where to go for more information, and have a contact person they can reach for help or answers. In short: communicate with your donors, often (but not too often). Regular e-mail newsletters, the occasional snail mail letter, and social networks all should be a part of your communications mix.
3. Small Asks
Engaged donors are active donors. Help your donors become active in your organization by making a series of small asks. Not all of these asks should be for money. Ask your donors for their advice and insight, for their time (as volunteers), for their leadership (on committees and boards), for their voice (in advocating for your cause and helping you find new supporters), and for their financial support. Start with small asks, and get people involved in a way that makes them feel comfortable and appreciated.
Constantly recognize your supporters for their work on your behalf. Let volunteers and donors know how much you rely on their support. Tell them what their support has meant for the people your non-profit serves. Publish lists of your volunteers, donors, committee members and friends. Your supporters (usually) aren’t helping you because they want to be recognized, but it sure does help them stay engaged when they know you appreciate their work.
As your non-profit engages more and more supporters, donors, and volunteers, it will become increasingly difficult to motivate and communicate with your network. Successfully engaging with a large group of donors and prospects will require a highly organized, well-planned effort. My best advice is to write out your donor engagement plan and specify which team members will be responsible for the tactics it includes. Set up a system for regular donor communication and recognition. Plan what asks you will make, and when. Ideally, once your plan is in place, you will simply be able to place new prospects into the appropriate point in your strategy and let the system take over.
*Joe Garecht is the founder of The Fundraising Authority (http://www.thefundraisingauthority.com), which provides free articles and how-to information on fundraising for small and medium-sized non-profits.