9 Nonprofit Communications Best Practices That Stand Out
Whether you’re soliciting donations via email or mailing event invitations, a strong nonprofit communications strategy is the key to raising brand awareness and inspiring meaningful support.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through nine donor communication best practices that will help engage supporters and drive conversions.
1. Create a nonprofit communications plan
With everything you have on your plate, it can be difficult to remember when you need to send out a thank you note or follow up with a particular donor.
That’s why pre-planning is crucial. Not only will a nonprofit communications strategy help guide your outreach efforts, but it will also provide concrete, measurable objectives so that you know what you’re working towards.
A successful communications plan should include:
- Objectives: Consider the goals that you hope to accomplish through your outreach efforts. For example, do you want to raise awareness for your cause or engage a larger audience? These objectives will help you stay on track.
- Timeline: Build out a timeline or calendar that includes what you plan to send, when, and to whom. Your team will be able to refer back to this as needed.
- Channel(s): Every communication channel is unique. Will you communicate primarily through social media, direct mail, or a combination?
- Evaluation: Gather KPIs, such as email open and conversion rates, so you can evaluate what’s working well and what needs improvement.
Although building a communications plan can be time-consuming at first, your messaging will be more consistent and effective in the long run.
2. Know who you’re contacting
The next step in nonprofit communications is deciding who to target through your outreach efforts. For example, are you looking to contact a single group of potential new donors or multiple groups of loyal supporters? In order to understand each group’s preferences and motivations, use donor segmentation.
Start by applying filters in your fundraising software to segment donors based on their giving level, communication preferences, and engagement history. Defining these segments will help your organization create content that is relevant and engaging for everyone.
3. Tailor your communications
Whether you’re writing a thank you letter or an invitation to an upcoming event, it’s important to personalize your communications. Your supporters are much more likely to pay attention, feel appreciated, and take action when you speak to them directly, rather than sending out a mass appeal.
Fortunately, you don’t need to write unique messages for each donor to reap these benefits. Simply addressing them by name and mentioning their past involvement with your organization will help build stronger relationships.
You can also tailor your communications to the well-defined segments that you made earlier, which can include the following groups of donors:
- New donors: For a first-time donor, reiterate your appreciation for their gift and welcome them to your cause. This is your opportunity to encourage them to give again.
- Major donors: If you have a major donor program, chances are you’ve already been sending out major gift-related communications. If not, create a mailing list with your major donors and regularly communicate the impact of their generosity.
- Recurring donors: Your messages to monthly donors should thank them for their continued support and inform them about the progress your organization is making through your initiatives.
- Lapsed donors: Communicating with a lapsed donor is all about convincing them to rejoin your cause. Tell them about your current programs and ask how you can improve upon their past experiences.
Tailored communications are key to maximizing your nonprofit’s outreach efforts.
4. Leverage a multichannel communications approach
When it comes to nonprofit communication channels, the possibilities are endless. Depending on the goals and donor preferences that you previously defined, you could choose one to two channels to meet your supporters where they are.
Most nonprofits, however, opt for a multichannel approach to reach as many people as possible. Try using multiple mediums like:
- Phone calls
- Social media
- Direct mail
- Paid ads
Combining these communication channels provides multiple touchpoints for interaction.
5. Use a conversational style
We all respond better to messages that sound personable and friendly. Donors are no different. Imagine that you’re speaking with your donors face-to-face and write your message in the same voice and style.
Do you use contractions in everyday conversation? Do you start sentences with conjunctions? The more informal you are, the more your nonprofit communications should match. Read your writing aloud and making edits until it sounds natural.
While it may seem insignificant, the grammar and style choices you make combine to create your nonprofit’s voice. When your supporters receive your message, they’ll be able to recognize almost immediately that it’s from your organization.
6. Be donor-centric
When donors feel valued, they are more likely to take meaningful action. That’s why all of your communications should be focused on the donor.
Rather than talking about your nonprofit’s accomplishments, position your donors as the heroes that drive your mission forward. It’s as simple as writing in first and second-person points of view to address your donors.
For example, instead of saying, “Our nonprofit saved 100 pandas this year,” try saying, “Your generosity has helped us save 100 pandas.” Using “we” and “you” language treats donors as your equals.
7. Be specific
Donors appreciate a thank you. But they have an even greater appreciation for a thank you that updates them on how the projects, programs, and campaigns they’ve given to are progressing. Since you’ve segmented your contacts, it will be easy to share specific updates with the right people.
Consider the following, highly-specific example:
“Last month, you showed your generosity when we needed it most. Thanks to your contribution, we were able to build 12 new schools for children in need. Today, I’m writing because I think you can help us with our newest project.”
Keeping the communications relevant will help keep your donors engaged.
8. Include a call-to-action
Invite supporters to get more involved by including a clear call-to-action in every message. This could include any action that supports your cause, from donating to signing up for an email newsletter.
Here are some helpful tips for getting started with CTAs:
- Keep it simple. CTAs should let your readers know exactly what you’re looking for in as few words as possible. Keep it brief and attention-grabbing.
- Convey a sense of urgency. Use actionable language to encourage immediate conversions. For instance, you might include a powerful CTA that inspires donors to “Join the fight against hunger” or “Save the children today.”
- Make it stand out. Place your CTAs in strategic locations to ensure they are actually seen. For example, if you’re reaching out to donors through email, consider putting the CTA in the subject line.
Don’t underestimate the power of a donation button or compelling statement. Effective CTAs provide donors with a quick and easy way to get involved.
9. Encourage feedback
Input from your donors is invaluable. After you accept their support, circle back for their feedback. This will make them feel like a valued partner, helping to improve engagement and retention. Consider:
- Sending out a survey to determine your donors’ communication preferences.
- Asking for more personal information, such as their birthdays or updated addresses.
- Asking for their opinion on your donor stewardship program, giving societies, and fundraisers.
With this constructive feedback, you can work to grow the relationship between your organization and your donors.
Following these best practices will result in communications that resonate. Not only will your donors feel valued, but they will also be more committed to the long-term success of your organization.