Say What? How to communicate with your donors Part1

So, you’ve convinced people to give to your cause, raised the money you need and have a lovely bunch of donors.  Now what?

Well, given that it costs far more to recruit new donors than it costs to encourage existing ones to give again.  And given that common courtesy suggests that if someone helps you out you keep in touch with them, you want to keep communicating with that group of donors (plus any new ones you gain in the future).

But your a small non-profit and fundraising takes up so much of your time, there’s none left for a donor communications plan.  I get it, I really do.  But you have to.  Otherwise all of your fundraising efforts were worth nothing in the first place.


Donor communications don’t need to be fancy.  They don’t need to be slick corporate communications and they don’t have to come out every week (in fact, I’d recommend they don’t!).  However, what they do need to be is Planned.  And, as you know, planning is at the heart of every small charity’s successful fundraising programme.

So, what does the most basic but still effective, donor communications plan look like?


1. Set up a system of regular updates.  I’m not recommending that you mail your donors every week or even every month but, at the very least, try to write out to them quarterly.  Please be clear, I am NOT suggesting that you ask them for money quarterly – but that you tell them about your cause, what their donation has made happen, tell them your news or – even better – ask their opinion about your future plans.  Remember that the key to successful communication is listening.  So ask questions and listen to what they have to say.


2. As a bare minimum, make sure that you ask donors to give again on the anniversary of their gift.  You can, of course, ask at other points throughout the year – such as special campaigns or to sign them up to regular giving for example – but if you simply don’t have the resources to do that, make sure that you ask them to renew their gift on it’s anniversary.  Explain how you used their gift, the impact that it has made in the past 12 months (as a contribution to your overall gifts) and remember to thank them.  You could also at this point, encourage an annual donor to become a monthly donor or a monthly donor to consider increasing their gift.


3. Communicate through a different medium – when getting in touch with donors, don’t send out the same old format each time.  Send a Christmas card, then a letter, then perhaps a brochure/leaflet or photo based communication.  Where you have email addresses mix offline and online communications.  Use video, direct them to different platforms that your charity is on – such as Twitter or Facebook.


[frame]Whatever you do and however you do it, make sure your donor communications have your donor at the heart. Tell them stories about your clients to help their gift come to life and talk about the difference that they, as donors, make to your charity. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or spend weeks pulling together fancy mailings and print. You just need to communicate.[/frame]


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