The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Improve Donor Relationships with Gratitude

In celebration of Mother’s Day this Sunday, we thought we’d take a minute to talk about gratitude. Building strong relationships with your donor and keeping them engaged with your nonprofit comes down to three things: great communication, gratitude, and organized data.

Building retention-focused donor communications is part of every fundraiser’s daily to-do list. Once you have your plan in place, it’s time to put it into action.

Also, don’t forget to call your mom!

Your Donor-Retention Timeline

This straightforward timeline from nonprofit expert Nancy Schwartz shows how and when to interact with first-time donors to ensure they stay engaged with your nonprofit.

Upon Receiving An Online Gift

  • Show your gratitude. Share your appreciation via a follow-up page as soon as your first-time donor finishes the transaction.

The Same Day

  • Make sure all donor and gift data is in your donor management system. Many data points, from the time of day the gift was made to your donor’s zip code, can help you customize upcoming donor communications and increase the probability of future gifts. A donor management system like Network for Good’s automatically syncs with online donations.

Within One Day

  • Thank your donor in a brief, compelling email. Use your donor management system to automate this initial email.
  • Mention the campaign or specific project your donor is supporting.
  • Include a receipt.
  • Send it from your executive director or star program staffer.

Within One Week

  • Reinforce your thanks with a warm, heartfelt follow-up email. Welcome your new donor to the cause.
  • Share a specific impact story that their donation helped make possible to show the importance of their gift. This person gave to your organization because they found something you said appealing, so reinforce that. Use photos or video to make your message stand out.
  • Tell the donor how and when you’ll be following up and that you’re looking forward to getting to know them better.
  • Invite the donor to get in touch with you or a colleague with any questions or requests.
  • Send future messages from your executive director, development director, or program director. Relationships are built from person to person; not from organization to person. Your donors will appreciate the personal touch.

Within Two Weeks

  • Share content with your donors suited to their interests. For example, note if the donor first gave on #GivingTuesday, lives near a program site, or donated at a specific event.
  • Link your donor’s gift to the impact your organization is making across programs and services. You’ll strengthen the donor’s connection to the cause and your organization.
  • Surprise your top-prospect segment with a handwritten (or even just hand-signed) thank you note, or phone call.
  • For donors who gave offline: mail a second thank you/welcome note (hand-signed if possible, at least to higher-level donors) with a short newsletter or impact story.
  • For donors who gave online: kick off your welcome email series, featuring a brief impact story in each email and regularly sharing other info about your organization’s unique impact and approach. Include calls to actions such as sharing an event on Facebook or signing a petition.
  • For new high-value donors, reinforce your relationship with a hand-signed, printed welcome note.

Within One Month

  • Regularly assess your donor data to learn about new donors to your organization. We recommend every two weeks.
  • Determine which of your new donors fits into your donor framework (target groups and segments within each).
  • For new donors similar to your current groups and segments, determine how you can customize your messages to match the relevant segment while integrating your welcome and appreciation messages.
  • Note any donors who are similar to one another but don’t fit well into existing segments. Is a new segment needed?
  • Articulate what’s unique about their wants and preferences. These gifts may signal the potential for more donors like them, but you need to know what “like them” is so you can look for it.

Over The Next Three Months

  • Stay in close touch with relevant content. As with any new relationship, the first few months are everything. If you don’t engage your first-time donors within 90 days of their gift, you’re not going to resonate with them.
  • The proven way to keep these donors engaged is to deliver content marketing that shows you “get” them.

Check out The Donor Communications Mini-Guide for more tips on how to build a successful donor communications strategy for your nonprofit.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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