How to Make Donors Feel So Awesome, They Can’t Help but Give More to Your Nonprofit

It’s easy to get complacent about your donors. You spend so much time cultivating new prospects and building relationships that once someone makes a gift, you tend to mark them off the list and move on to the next prospect. Unfortunately, that leads to a never-ending stream of lapsed donors, which in turn forces us to stay on the hamster wheel, trying to find new donors to replace the donors you have lost.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Keeping your current donors giving year after year (and upgrading them, too) provides a stable base of support for your nonprofit… and ensures that any new donors you cultivate will increase your overall fundraising, rather than simply replace donors that have lapsed.

What’s the best way to keep donors giving year after year? Make them feel awesome when they give.

The best organizations make donors feel so engaged, delighted and excited about giving that they can’t help but give over and over again.

Here are three ways to make your donors feel awesome:

#1 – Thank Donors Quickly

Have you ever sent someone an amazing gift… something that you thought would really knock their socks off… and then waited to hear from them once they received it? You imagined how happy they would be when they opened the gift and assumed they would be so overjoyed that they would call you (or at least send you a text) to thank you for your incredible thoughtfulness.

How would it make you feel if they never even called? You’d think perhaps the gift wasn’t so amazing and perfect after all.

Your donors feel the same way when it takes weeks for you to acknowledge a gift.

Make Donors Feel So Awesome

If you want those donors to keep giving, you need to thank them – immediately – for their gifts and let them know how important their donations are to your work.

Thank your donors quickly.

If possible, have a staff member, board member, or trusted volunteer call the donor to let them know the gift has arrived and how thankful the organization is for the donation. Whether or not a call is possible, get a thank you note into the mail within one week after the gift is received. Let your donors know you are excited about their gifts, and they will want to keep donating again and again.

#2 – Make Your Donors the Heroes of Your Story

Without your donors, you wouldn’t be able to hire a staff, open an office, provide materials to volunteers, or carry out your work in the field. If your donors stopped giving, your nonprofit would cease to exist.

Make Donors Feel So Awesome

Your donors are the heroes of your story. Are you treating them that way? At many nonprofits, donors receive newsletters and fundraising appeals that focus on the staff as the heroes, or the volunteers as the heroes, or that show how the work of the organization is heroic… but that never mention the donors in the same light. This is a huge mistake.

If you want your donors to feel awesome about their connection with you, and to give over and over again, you need to tell them the truth: that for your nonprofit, they are the true heroes.

They are the ones that allow you to carry out your work, operate your programs, and change the world.

#3 – Connect with Them Personally, Without Making an Ask

Most nonprofits know that it is important to cultivate donors in between asks (we call this “donor stewardship”). The most common way to cultivate low and mid-level donors is through a donor newsletter (either e-mail or snail mail).

But what if I told you that there is a way to use the period in between asks to delight your donors so much that they can’t help but say “yes!” the next time you ask them for a gift?

Make Donors Feel So Awesome

The best way to make your donors feel awesome is to connect with them personally – this means in person, or on the phone. Low and mid-level donors aren’t used to getting personal attention from the nonprofits they support. They know that high-level donors are personally cultivated, but they assume that their lower-dollar gifts to the organization simply don’t warrant that kind of personal attention.

Prove them wrong, and you’ll have a donor for life.

Obviously, you won’t be able to spend as much time with a $100 as you will with a $10,000 donor – but you can provide enough personal contact with each donor to show them how important they are to your nonprofit.

One way to do this by holding a “thank-a-thon” where board and staff members call through your donor list to personally thank each donor for their gifts. Another strategy is to hold donor recognition events to thank and cultivate donors at all levels. Some nonprofits even tape short, 20 second personalized videos thanking each donor by name and then e-mail them to their donors with a thank-you note.

Whatever method you choose, including some personal contact into your donor communications strategy will help your donors feel more important, appreciated, and yes… awesome about their involvement with your organization.

Joe Garecht is a nonprofit fundraising consultant, author, and speaker, and is the founder of The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest and offers a free Weekly Fundraising Round-Up by e-mail.

John Haydon