5 Proven Online Donor Stewardship Techniques You Can Start Today

With online donations becoming the go-to way for donors to make contributions, it’s not surprising that donor stewardship should include ways to cultivate relationships online.

Online stewardship adds variety to your outreach. By using online stewardship, nonprofits can reach donors on platforms they already use to communicate with friends and relatives.

Here are five techniques will help you improve your online donor stewardship:

  1. Optimize your email correspondence.
  2. Give donors a chance to be a part of the conversation.
  3. Share success stories with your donors.
  4. Create a recognition program.
  5. Encourage donors to share content.

Let’s roll up our sleeves!

Technique #1: Optimize your email correspondence.

Connecting with donors through email works so well because it’s not as time-sensitive as a phone call or in-person conversation. Donors can read your content when it’s convenient for them.

Your nonprofit can also direct donors to other resources on your website, add photos, and suggest connecting on social media easily in an email, unlike other forms of communication.

To make the most out of your email stewardship, we’ll go into four strategies your nonprofit can use:

Send emails consistently.

While your nonprofit may be sending emails, it’s important to be conscious of how often you send them. Sending out emails on a regular basis keeps your nonprofit in the donor’s mind and sets a precedent for when they can expect content from you.

How often you communicate with donors will depend on how much content you want to send and how often donors want to hear from you.

As you’re probably aware, a newsletter is an excellent way to provide donors with consistent content. For example, churches have used newsletters to improve donor stewardship by keeping their congregation informed on a regular basis.

Consistent correspondence, like sending newsletters, makes donors comfortable with your organization and builds a sense of trust. Donors know what to expect and can rely on your information.

Mix up your content.

If your emails don’t offer any value, donors won’t be compelled to read them. If your nonprofit is only sending out emails about fundraising events or asking for more donations, your emails are likely to be left unread.

Donors want more from your nonprofit, so think of other things you can send donors. You could send:

  • Current events or news related to your mission.
  • Thank you messages for their support.
  • Updates on the progress of current projects or goals.
  • Suggestions of other ways donors can support your nonprofit.
  • Information about your membership or recognition programs.

When you add variety to your emails, donors will learn more about your nonprofit and find more areas that interest them.

Provide a clear call-to-action.

Your nonprofit should always create ways for donors to continue interacting beyond the email. That’s why every email needs to have a call-to-action.

Your emails should lead to one of the following things:

  • Other resources your nonprofit has created.
  • Your website.
  • Your social media accounts.

When you guide donors to other content related to your nonprofit, they can continue to engage with your nonprofit.

By encouraging donors to learn more about your organization, you could lead them to connect to your nonprofit in new ways.

Thank donors promptly after receiving a donation.

Acknowledging donors promptly makes a great first impression on donors. A great first giving experience can set your donors on the right stewardship track.

When thanking a donor online, it’s important that they receive the acknowledgment no more than a couple of days after they’ve made their donation.

Send out a thank-you letter soon after a donation has been made so that the act of giving is still fresh in the donor’s mind. Donors will also appreciate that your acknowledgment came quickly.

The takeaway: Email is the predominant way you’ll build relationships with donors online, so make sure your emails follow these best practices.

Technique #2: Give donors a chance to be a part of the conversation.

As you plan and create your correspondence, give donors the opportunity to speak as well. When you communicate online, it is easy to get stuck in a one-sided conversation where your nonprofit does all the talking.

However, when you give donors the opportunity to talk, you’re giving them a chance to contribute by sharing their opinions.

How do you encourage donors to share? Here are a few suggestions on how to get a response from your donors:

  • Ask questions — If you’re sending out an email, close with a question that donors can respond to if they wish.
  • Send surveys — If you’re having trouble deciding on your next fundraising event or need help with improving your volunteer program, a survey is a great way to get suggestions.
  • Respond to comments or messages on your social media account — When you respond to donors’ comments in a friendly and respectful way, they will be more comfortable commenting in the future.

As long as your nonprofit is willing to listen to your donors, they will be glad to share with you.

After you’ve let donors speak, don’t forget to respond back. The point is to get a conversation going. Let donors know what you plan to do with the information you’ve learned so donors know that their efforts are contributing towards something.

The takeaway: Don’t forget to include ways for your donor to talk to you as you design your stewardship plan.

Technique #3: Share success stories with your donors.

To really make the most out of your donor stewardship, you can’t always ask for donations. Donors want to receive success stories because it makes them feel accomplished knowing that their donation helped someone.

Sharing success stories is a great way to show donors how their contributions have made an impact in the community because it taps into their emotions and gives them a clear picture of what your nonprofit has achieved.

And, the more you improve how you tell stories, the more you can connect with donors. Everyone loves a good story!

How you decide to share your story is up to you and your nonprofit.  For example, you could:

  • Send an email with your story.
  • Share it on social media.
  • Create a page showcasing a collection of really inspiring stories.
  • Include a story in you nonprofit’s newsletter.

Make sure your stories focus on the accomplishments of the donor. This isn’t the time to give all the praise to your nonprofit.

The takeaway: Use stories to connect donors to your cause in a way they can feel and see.

Technique #4: Create a recognition program.

A donor recognition program goes beyond thanking donors after they’ve made a donation. Your program should focus on publicly recognizing donors who have made significant contributions.

A recognition program is a great technique to inspire donors. When your nonprofit recognizes a donor, they become aspirational role models for the rest of your donor base.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you solely acknowledge the donors who have given a significant amount of money (though your recognition program could), but donors can be recognized for other reasons like:

  • Deciding to become a recurring giver.
  • Donating a certain amount of times that year.
  • Joining your giving club or membership program.
  • Volunteering for a certain amount of hours.

Just make sure that your recognition program has different levels so that every donor knows they have a chance of being recognized for their contributions.

Once your nonprofit has decided on which donors you want to recognize, you need to figure out where to showcase your donors. Your nonprofit could create a web page or include the donors in your newsletter.

The takeaway: Creating a recognition program is a way to inspire donors and build a community where you acknowledge your most supportive donors.

Technique #5: Encourage donors to share your content.

Aside from making a donation, donors want to support your cause in other ways. Encouraging donors to share content can improve donor stewardship and expand your donor base.

By encouraging donors to share your mission with their family, friends, and coworkers, you’re giving donors the chance to be heroes, championing for your cause.

How do you encourage donors to share? Here a few ways:

  • Post valuable and relevant content on social media. If you’re active on social media donors can repost your content, spreading the word to their social connections.
  • Create shareable content (i.e. videos, images, white papers, case studies, etc.).
  • Ask them. If you have an upcoming fundraising event, ask donors to spread the word to get more people involved.

When you provide donors with the right resources, you equip them with the tools to share their support of your organization with others.

The takeaway: As donors share your content and mission, they will grow more invested in your nonprofit and expand your network at the same time.

The goal of stewardship is to connect with donors and keep them excited about your cause. Use these techniques to build better online relationships.

For more ways to grow relationships with donors, check out the Qgiv donor stewardship and cultivation guide.

John Haydon