7 strategies to enhance donor engagement for your nonprofit

Donor engagement for nonprofits

Learn how to grow major donors

If worrying about how to attract major donors and keep them engaged is keeping you up at night, you’re in good company. The overwhelming majority of nonprofit organizations struggle to engage donors and retain their support for the long term. Even a small increase in donor retention can greatly increase the lifetime value of your donor base, so it’s a good idea to brush up on your donor engagement strategy. 

Donor engagement refers to every interaction that takes place between your organization and your donors as part of your overall donor engagement strategy. It includes all the little (and big) things your organization does to build donor relationships by making them feel heard, valued and an important part of the community. Organizations that excel at donor engagement don’t only reap the benefits of increased financial support, they also inspire their donors to share their causes with their personal networks, further expanding their reach, impact and fundraising capacity.

The gold standard in donor engagement today is personalized communication. Unfortunately, because reaching out to donors in a personal way is so resource-heavy and time-consuming, many organizations fail to do this as well as they should.  

Read on for some tips on how to effectively engage, grow and retain major donors—and specific tools that can help you perform this job with ease.

1. Make it personal

No matter what type of nonprofit you’re raising money for, when you dig down to find the cause behind low donor engagement and re-engagement, you’ll often find the same complaint. Namely, that donors don’t feel adequately appreciated for their generosity. When a donor makes a donation, they expect to be thanked for it as soon as possible; the longer you wait, the more likely you are to lose that donor’s loyalty.

The most impactful “thank you” is a personalized one that mentions the exact gift given and also includes information that shows you know the donor well—like remembering the name of their spouse or sending good wishes for a recent anniversary. Phone calls are more personal than letters or emails, but in a busy office where each fundraiser is responsible for nurturing a large number of donors, this is rarely possible. Fortunately, modern technology introduces a tantalizing new form of personal greeting in the form of video. 

The advantage of using a video creation and management tool for fundraising is that personalized videos can be created and disseminated at scale. They can also be edited, remade and updated easily. Personal video messages may not be quite as impactful as a live phone call, but they can go a long way toward making a donor feel special and appreciated. 

Such messages can be recorded ahead of time and used for multiple purposes, including showcasing a certain fund, thanking a donor for a gift, and sending seasonal greetings, congratulations or other special messages.

2. Share impact stories

When you don’t share the impact of a gift with the donor, they can very quickly lose interest. Donors deserve to know how their gift was used and most derive great pleasure from seeing the many lives impacted by their contribution. Many organizations send out generic template-based emails sharing impact stories or written testimonials, but these fall flat compared to more personal impact-sharing methods such as a phone call or a meeting. 

This is an area where video messaging can really shine—especially for the more creative fundraiser. Say your donor’s gift went towards a certain scholarship; you can ask some recipients to record messages sharing how the scholarship impacted their lives. Video testimonials from staff, volunteers or other community members can also make for very impactful stories. 

Not only do video impact stories feel more warm and personal than emails, but they also allow you to get creative (for example, by producing a professional video) and get other community members involved in sharing your stories. 

3. Mark special milestones

Fundraising is about building relationships, getting to know one another over time and remembering those small personal details. Birthdays, anniversaries, a birth in the family, moving home and changing jobs are all milestones that should be noted by those who are important in a person’s life. Fundraisers can find themselves drowning in the admin work that goes into making sure they remember to send important donors a greeting for all the many milestones, big and small, in their lives. 

A generic “happy birthday” email sent on the right date is a nice touch but is rarely enough to warm the recipient’s heart. A video message, on the other hand, can have a much greater impact, especially if it mentions “Aunt Clara” and other personal details. Using video messaging for milestones means fundraisers can create greetings in bulk, making it much easier for them to stay on top of this vital donor engagement task. 

When planning out donor engagement for nonprofits, for example, fundraisers can dedicate one afternoon a month to recording a whole bunch of these personal greetings. They can even use a fundraising tool to automate sending and ensure that the right messages go out on the right dates.

4. Celebrate long-term loyalty

A happy and appreciated donor is one who will stick around and support your cause for the long haul. Some donors send an annual gift to a particular cause—e.g., your annual fund—year in and year out. It can be a very nice touch to share your appreciation for these longtime donors by celebrating milestones. Sending a quick personal message to thank a donor for 5, 10, 15, etc. years of support to a certain fund will show them that you are not taking their regular contributions for granted and that you have noted and appreciate their loyalty. 

Recording such messages by video can help staff manage a large caseload more effectively without sacrificing too much in the way of personal touch. A video will also help staff members who struggle with “stage-fright” as the text can be scripted by a talented writer in advance.

5. Focus on reunion giving

Reunions provide many fundraising opportunities and avenues to connect with your constituents. Whether you start your planning before the big event or focus your efforts on follow-up to secure one-time or recurring gifts from those who attended the various reunion activities, be sure to capitalize on this opportunity. Video messaging can really help you boost your pre- and post-reunion engagement rates. Ask your volunteers and board members to record their own videos to lend character and greater personalization to your messaging. 

6. Rally your troops

A task shared is a task halved! Most fundraisers have a large number of donors to nurture and have many tasks they need to complete each day. Anything that can be outsourced to someone else will save them vital time and resources. 

When using video messages, the fundraiser can create a content plan that involves allocating video-content creation to other members of the community or stakeholders. A personal thank you or impact message from your CEO—or the person running a home for underprivileged kids—will not only be more interesting and memorable for the recipient than a standard email, it will also allow fundraisers to spend less time reaching out to donors themselves.

7. Automate, automate, automate

In a busy fundraising office where resources and staff are stretched thin, you must use all the tools at your disposal to keep things running efficiently. A fundraising tool that lets you prepare, store and automate the sending of personalized video greetings will save time and avoid errors. It will also greatly assist staff members in building those all-important personal relationships with donors and ensure they feel special and valued. 

Just create a content plan and upload all your video content to your video-sharing platform. Then use the tool to send out your videos at the right time and to the right people. If you want to go back and edit an old video or update it so it can be used for a different campaign, dip into your video content library and get to work.

Engage your donors—with a little help

Successful donor engagement for nonprofits relies on great people and great tools. Hopefully, you already have some great fundraisers on your team so now all you need is the right tools to truly cement your success. A video creation and management platform will enable your team to effectively reach out to their prospects, constituents and donors at scale. They can leverage personalized video for engagement purposes including the sending of  congratulations messages, event invitations, donation requests, appeals, thank yous, birthday wishes, reunion announcements and more.

Find out how Gratavid can help you create impactful personalized video messages and boost your donor engagement many times over. Get a demo.

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