We chatted with our friends at Winspire about how nonprofits can turn donors into lifetime advocates through engagement. We’re sharing the full recording here and a quick recap of what we talked about.

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Donor engagement: What it is and why you should care

Donor engagement has become sort of a buzzword in the nonprofit world, but what exactly does it mean? Just so we’re all on the same page:

donor engagement definition

Donor Engagement is using your donors’ interests to keep them involved with your nonprofit in some way.

You should always keep your donors’ interests and motivations in mind. If you already know why they support your mission, then give them specific information about that program.

Donors feel engaged with your nonprofit for multiple reasons:

  • Emotional connections
  • Sense of belonging
  • Being appreciated
  • Feeling understood

It’s your role as a nonprofit leader to not only solicit your constituents but also give back to them through engagement. This means making them feel understood and appreciated, not just treating them like an ATM.

But how do you do this? It’s impossible to know every donor in your database, right? We don’t think so.

Using technology to understand your donors

Knowing your donors – who they are, why they give to you, and how they like to be communicated with – is so important. With the technology available to you, there’s really no reason why you should be sending blanket solicitations to your whole donor base. You can actually engage with your donors in a way that is meaningful, powerful, and inspires them to give again.

Segment your lists

The first thing you need to do is segment your database. Go into your database and segment or group your donors based on their actions. By creating different groups, you’re able to reach out to them in unique and personal ways, ultimately creating a more invested supporter.

Another fun way to segment your data is by creating donor personas. A persona is a fictional person who represents all the behavioral characteristics of someone who would give to your organization. By creating these personas, you can start grouping your donors together based on certain characteristics – demographics, when they normally give, what type of events they give to, etc.

All this grouping leads to you being able to send targeted messages to your donors based on their actions. More specific it shows you’re more caring, inspiring more engagement.

Email nurturing series

One really effective way to help first-time donors stay involved is with a welcome or nurturing series. This is a gradual (but personal thanks to your earlier list segmenting) series which introduces your new donors to your programs and other giving opportunities in a methodical way, hopefully encouraging them to give again. Here are a few example components to include in your nurturing series:

  • Welcome Email:
  • Show the impact of your programs: Include a success story showing the impact of your donors’ support.
  • Highlight any other programs you may have: Make new donors aware of other programs you offer in case they’re also interested in giving to that program.
  • Ask them to follow you on social media.
  • Include an opportunity for them to give: Don’t forget to ask for a donation!

Ways to ask for a donation

While you shouldn’t jump right into a subsequent solicitation, you also shouldn’t forget to include opportunities to give when it’s appropriate. (This is where your CRM comes in to help you know who has just given so you don’t accidentally send them another appeal before even sending them a thank you note!) That being said, there are tactful ways of asking for a donation.

Tip 1:

A very simple way is to include a link to your donation page in your email signature. This is an easy and subtle way to ask people for a gift. It’s there if they want it, but you aren’t explicitly asking them.

Tip 2:

Make sure you include your attendees in your big giving campaigns (year-end, matching gift offer etc.). A key thing to remember is to send “personalized” versions of these big giving campaigns. And when we say personalized, we don’t just mean putting a “Dear First Name,” at the top of the letter. Make sure you use your database to help you reference their previous interaction with your organization – what event they attended, their recent volunteering, etc. By doing this you will make them feel more appreciated, and less like a checkbook.

Ask donors to be advocates

Now that you’ve successfully converted your one-time givers to two-time givers, you can work on making them advocates.

An advocate is simply someone who publicly supports and recommends your organization. If someone has given to your organization more than once, you know they are interested in and passionate about your mission. So why not let your donors help you increase your brand awareness and recruit other prospective donors?

  • Create social media posts worth sharing. Images, video, powerful quotes or statistics all make great social media posts.
  • Develop your own hashtag. Get creative. Make it something powerful that people would be willing to share.

There are numerous ways to build a list of new and prospective donors for your organization – events, auctions, races, and way more. Make sure you aren’t letting these opportunities slip through the cracks by sending one-size-fits-all communications after the event. Use your database to segment and target your audience, putting a well-informed next step in front of them. This will keep them engaged and ultimately turn them into lifetime supporters.