s fundraising professionals, we all know the importance of donor engagement. Without donors, fundraising will cease to exist. Yet many of us are so programmed to focus on the “ask” that we sometimes forget to focus on our donors outside of the big ask. Often times when that happens, we tend to see our donor retention rates drop. This is why donor engagement and retention is crucial to the success of your organization.
By now, you have probably heard of the “7 Touch Rule” used in both business and fundraising. This rule states that you should connect with your donors at least seven times in a particular year. With this rule in mind, I’m going to give you seven strategies that you can use to help keep your donors engaged throughout the year.
Video marketing is a great way to engage your audience. Many organizations are finding creative ways to integrate video marketing into their annual marketing strategies. This can include a video thank-you, video check-ins that can replace newsletters, or any other creative idea that your team can come up with. The cool thing about video engagement is that it can be done in a low-cost manner using your smartphone. The recorded videos can be uploaded to YouTube and shared from there or you can use video platforms such as “ThankView” to help. Whatever avenue you choose, incorporating video engagement can only help your organization to engage donors in a new way.
Handwritten Note Cards
As much as we talk about social media connections, there is something to be said about old-fashioned, handwritten notecards. In addition to thank you cards for donors, I keep a stack of notecards in my desk that I send to potential donors for their birthdays, anniversaries, or just because. Having the ability to personalize and connect with donors is essential in your engagement/growth strategies. Handwritten note cards go a long way in making that connection. Organizations should do this at least three times a year in addition to holidays.
Think about having people other than staff send the cards. For example, let's say your organization focuses on youth empowerment. Think about how special it would be for donors to receive personalized notecards from the youth that they donate money to. Sometimes small gestures go a long way in fundraising and donor engagement.
What are you doing to engage your donors through email? Most of the time organizations tend to connect with donors for a certain ”ask” (i.e. Day of Giving ) or through general organizational e-news. But when you’re looking to use email as a donor engagement tool, think beyond the standard. Do you highlight your donors? One way to so this is to personalize your Spring Appeal email by highlighting top donors based on donor giving levels.
Another creative spin on email is to write a blog post instead of a monthly newsletter. The blog can focus on a “Year in the Life” of your organization. Each month, discuss how your organization is growing its mission. This way you can email your donors monthly with new posts. This is using the art of storytelling in a new way to engage your donors through email.
One of the best voices you can use to engage donors is the donor itself. Brainstorm the different ways you can bring donors into the mix and also engage new donors, LYBUNTS (last year but not this year) donors, and current donors. This can include having them write a guest blog on why they give to your organization. They can also post a donor testimonial to Facebook or even host a small get-together at their home. Never underestimate the power of your donors to help you engage your donor base.
Quarterly Engagement Appeals
Appeals are usually solicitations that are created to ask a donor for funds. But if you want to look at this in terms of engagement, think of four ways you can engage donors throughout the year that are strictly focused on engaging them outside of funding asks.
For example, in the summer you can send postcards to your donor base just to say hello. One organization I know sends out Valentine’s Day Grams to donors of a certain level every year, and they get a great retention rate of giving because of this. Think of four ways to connect with donors throughout the year. Then implement your ideas and watch what happens.
Donor Appreciation Events
These events are focused on appreciating your donors and are a great way to engage and retain your donor base. Just remember, these events are appreciation only. Leave the ask for next time.
Social media goes hand-in-hand with video marketing. If your organization does not have active social media accounts, please go and create them now. Remember the keyword is ACTIVE. If you’re not actively posting and engaging your donor audience through your social media platforms, you’re missing out on crucial ways to engage.
Based on recent studies taken by the Pew Research Center, 79% of internet users (which includes 68% of all U.S. adults) use Facebook, with growing numbers also using other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. Creating engagement plans through social media can help you to retain donors, gain new donors, and increase knowledge about your mission and vision.
Furthermore, social media now gives you the ability to incorporate video and live- streaming as a donor engagement tool. Imagine giving live updates from fundraising events or programs. It’s a great way for your donors to instantly connect with your organization.
Lachelle Binion, MBA is a nonprofit professional, self-proclaimed impact strategist, and blogger. As the Founder of The Kismet Life blog, she often discusses her love for God and strategies to help people and/or organizations move from passion to profit.