Mapping Out Your Donor Communication Plan for Next Year

Knee-deep into year-end fundraising season and the glow of the new year on the horizon, I find myself thinking about donor engagement (it’s my annual resolution after all). I know, this is your busiest time. Most fundraisers and communicators are fretting over email appeals and boosted social media posts, anxiously hitting refresh on their donation processing systems and looking for reply envelopes from direct mail letters.

We push because we know these are the weeks that tend to attract the most dollars coming in from individual grassroots supporters. But I want to invite you to take a break. For just a few minutes, pause and think about the future with me.

I want you to think about your donor communication plan for 2016.

1. How will you communicate with your donors differently in 2016?

If you want to raise more money next year, you MUST start by answering this question. How you talk to, write to, speak to, and track your donors is the key to getting donors to give again–and give more. It’s true, to be successful in fundraising, you need good communications.

2. Pledge to celebrate your donors and make them feel like heroes.

Your messages should feature highlights of your accomplishments as your donor’s victories. And rather than send one appeal after another, you should be mixing in messages of progress and results and giving them lots of things to do beyond giving you their credit card information or access to their PayPal account.

And if you are really putting donors’ needs first, you should be asking them why they give and how they want to hear from you. Do you know? Are you using that information to tailor your approach?

3. Tear down those silos and get ready to dig in.

Your messages should sound like they come from one organization that seems like it values a donor and needs her to help achieve your essential mission. Unfortunately, I see lots of examples of messages that focus purely on transactions—attend our event, read our report, give us money—with no connection to a bigger story. And what’s worse, I either get bombarded one week with overlapping requests or go weeks or months without hearing a word.

Even though your team may be divided by department or function, your communication with donors should be unified. Are you creating a plan that everyone contributes and agrees to? Do you share a universal calendar so messages are coordinating and make sense as part of your overall story and brand? Should you meet with your colleagues more regularly to make sure everyone is on the same page?

4. Find more time to solidify or revise your donor communications plans.

Take 30 more seconds to look at your calendar in January. Find one day that looks meeting-free and block out the entire day to audit your past donor communications, look at your systems for capturing and sending information, analyze your results, and start mapping out what a better year of communications might look like.

Already have a plan? Take that time to review it again and see how it can be better.

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John Haydon