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Nonprofit Donor Relationships: The Do’s and Don’ts

Understanding the nonprofit donor relationship is vital for every board member. Networking and nurturing donor relationships is beneficial to the board member personally, as it enriches the board member’s present and future circle of connections. Naturally, it is also indispensable to the cause itself. The lifeblood that sustains the heart of a nonprofit organization comes from its donor base. Here are a few things an exceptional board member does (and doesn’t do) to keep it pumping!

nonprofit donor relationship do's and don'ts for the board of directors

Meaningful Communication Retains Nonprofit Donors, Ensuring Your Cause Receives Long-Term Support

Which donors have the strongest commitment to the cause? They will be your ambassadors, so nourish them. Here are some great ways:

  • Identify your ambassadors. Who answered your survey? Did anyone recommend your cause for their birthday fundraiser? Which supporters attended your event? Who gave you a stellar Google review? Create a system to focus on them.
  • Then, invite key supporters to be on the nonprofit donor advisory board. Only ask that they spend a few minutes per month answering a very brief survey.
  • Pay attention to the nonprofit donor advisory board’s input. Don’t guess at what nonprofit donors expect to see and support.

Last but not least, formulate a drip email campaign to ask supporters to consider your nonprofit in their estate planning. Explain the importance of long-term sustenance. Give them the full name, address, and tax identification number for ease of reference. With planning, there is no confusion or ambiguity in the donor’s will when they do include your organization.

What Nonprofit Board Members Don’t Always Do, But Should

Board members should consider these six tips for nonprofit donor communication and take what works for them.

  • Use plain language rather than buzzwords and insider’s lingo. Most nonprofit donors don’t want to join an elite group. Generally, they want to support a cause the public can understand and organize around.
  • Avoid regarding people as “our members and supporters” or “the public.” Deepen relationships with your true individual fans. It’ll take more work. However, it’ll be worth it.
  • Don’t be a donor hoarder by filing donor names and addresses away in a computer at your headquarters. Donors are people, and people need interaction. Give it!
  • Do not wait until the next fundraising campaign to say “thank you” for the support (including intangible support) a donor offers today. Stay in touch between donations and solicitations.
  • Most nonprofits could also stand to share their stories a lot more, and a lot sooner. Anyone can write a “successes of the past year” fundraising letter. And your nonprofit should! But you have a Facebook or Twitter account. Use it for a deeper kind of sharing. Don’t skimp on pictures of the real, immediate ways a donor’s gifts can change lives. Celebrate your donors’ generosity. Another don’t must be noted here: Avoid showing faces of volunteers and beneficiaries without permission.

Finally, could your organization as a whole stand to cut some fluff? Today’s donors are less likely to want “stuff” and more likely to appreciate direct engagement. The internet makes it possible. Run with it!

And Now, the Best-Kept Secret

If you read between the lines, you’ll see where we’re going with these nonprofit donor suggestions.

A campaign’s highest goal isn’t to attract donors: it’s to forge meaningful relationships.

Retention naturally flows from these relationships. Treat donors the way you would like to be treated – with appreciation, attention, and respect. Your nonprofit will be better for those relationships.


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