Best Practices for Donor Management

donor-managementWe all know that it takes more time, energy, and money to attract new donors than it does to keep existing donors. So how do you keep new donors from becoming one-hit wonders, and your repeat donors from fading to black? Here are some proven best practices to keep your donors engaged and their checkbooks open.

1. Be Accountable
Trust is a precious commodity in the nonprofit sector. It is imperative that you are being accountable not only in your financial audits, but to your donors as well. Make sure you use money raised for the purposes you outlined in your solicitations. Communicate these actions clearly and often to your donors, because once a donor is lost to a lack of trust, it is rare that he or she will return. Being accountable for the funds you raise will keep your organizational integrity intact and your donors contributing to your cause.

2. Know Your Donors
The more you know about your donors, the more opportunities you have to reinforce the relationships. Respect your donors’ wishes when it comes to communications, solicitations, and acknowledgments. Take advantage of what prompted that first donation, who in the organization knows the donor, how the donor likes to be treated, and why the donor continues to give. After all, future gifts depend on how well you’ve nurtured the donor’s relationship with your organization.

3. Thank Your Donors
It sounds simple enough, and we all know it’s important. But how we thank donors can either secure their loyalty or begin to erode away their confidence in your organization. They have chosen to give to you, so do everything you can to reinforce what a good choice they have made.

Timeliness is of the utmost importance. Thank your donors as soon as possible after receiving their contributions. This can be with a call, a card, a letter, or e-mail, whichever is the most appropriate for your organization. The gift is fresh in their minds, and quick responses secure their faith in your organization.

4. Be Consistent
If you want donors to consistently give to your organization, then you need to be consistent with your donors. Part of maintaining consistency is to understand the expectations that have been established with long-time donors, the expectations of those who recently began supporting your organization, and the goals and limitations of your organization to meet those expectations while guiding expectations for the future. Consistency in communication and messaging, in events, and in timing helps to create a pattern of expectations from your donors and credibility for your organization.

5. Show Donors How They’ve Helped – Engaging Without the “Ask”
Although we naturally communicate with our top donors and grantors the results obtained from their contributions, we often don’t implement the same strategy across the entire donor spectrum. No matter the size of the gift or the reason for giving, people want to feel valued and know their donations are making a difference.

One way to begin building and reinforcing donor loyalty is to share a success story within the thank you. This strategy shows how the donor’s most recent contribution is making a difference and can be implemented for every gift, regardless of size. In every donor communication to follow—newsletters, Web sites, and solicitations—give examples of how the donor’s money is being put to good use with testimonials, statistics, achievements, and images of success.

6. Practice Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is a phrase suggesting that a process or product should always get better as knowledge about it and experience with it accumulates over time. This concept is not just for the manufacturing and quality control industries of the world, but also for all aspects of your donor retention efforts.

It is insightful to meet after a major fundraising initiative to review the strengths and weaknesses of the effort and prepare for the next one. But everything you do to attract and retain your donors—direct mail solicitations, telethons, events, capital campaigns—needs to be evaluated, documented, and improved upon for the future.

7. Create a Recurring Gift Program
As one of the fastest-growing retention techniques, recurring gift programs are a proven method of increasing donor loyalty while providing a constant revenue stream into your organization. These programs can be easily integrated into current fundraising initiatives. By asking existing donors to make smaller donations on a recurring basis, you are keeping them active and engaged. Automatic deductions allow for a painless method of giving, provide an opportunity to easily upgrade to a higher recurring amount, and are more likely to keep your donors giving since it takes a specific action to stop the deductions.