Engaging Donors

Passionate donors want to be engaged in your mission. When they are engaged, their generosity and loyalty increase.

Just starting the cultivation process with a donor will make them more engaged. Starting the process tells the donor they are important. Donors want to know they are important to your mission and clients because your mission and clients are important to your donors.

When you offer an opportunity to a donor that fits their interests, they will engage. Timing is a factor. If they just paid a large tax bill, they may be unable to make a significant donation. Therefore, you may needed to look for indicators of their engagement. For example, if they are unable to give, are they willing to help recruit others?

Involvement as a volunteer in the life of your nonprofit or the lives of your clients is another way to increase engagement. Board membership is one option but some donors will be more effective serving in other capacities. In any case, asking a donor to volunteer, tells the donor their value extends well beyond their capacity to give.

Inviting donors to be part of focus groups also tells donors they are more valuable than their donations. They want to be engaged more than just being asked to choose between two or three options. For instance, asking donors for their input on strategic issues will provide your nonprofit with a fresh perspective on an important issue. It also allows the donor to help shape your nonprofit’s future and it helps the donor to feel that they are important to a future that is attractive to them. Increasing a donor’s loyalty will help to increase the sustainability of your funding stream.

Ensuring your nonprofit is donor centric also engages donors. Successful fundraising teams are donor centric. It is easy for them since they constantly deal with donors. However, boards need to focus on many things. As result, the donors can sometimes be overlooked by the board or taken for granted. The board needs to create policy that supports and encourage everyone to be donor centric.

There is a huge difference between “We have a new initiative/budget and we need your support” and “Is this initiative important to you?” In the first, the nonprofit is assuming the donors will support the initiative or budget. The second asks the donors to help shape the future. When the donor responds positively, they are saying they will provide support. If they suggest changes, it is an even stronger statement of support.

Next Step:

Make donor engagement, rather than fundraising, the focus of your donor cultivation

Invite your donors to provide guidance and direction

Train your board to be donor centric in thoughts, words (what they say, policies they write, etc.), and actions

Boards are reluctant to give control to donors. They are concerned the donors will take the nonprofit or mission in the wrong direction. It is unlikely the donors will. Your board and staff are the experts. Your donors will listen to your advice. In addition, the problem your mission promises to solve is important to your donors. They want your nonprofit to have a high level of sustainability so that they can be confident that your nonprofit can solve the problem for future generations.

If you give your donors the engagement they want, they will give you the support your nonprofit needs to thrive.

Take It Further:

Cultivate the engagement of your volunteers

Ask your board to measure the success of your fundraising efforts by the level of engagement of your donors (make your success measures donor centric) rather than reaching the annual fundraising goal (dollar centric)


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