What’s the Connection? How to Keep Donors Engaged & Coming Back for More

By Susan D. RostkoskiStrategic Consulting & Coaching Principal Consultant

As counter-intuitive as it seems, the act of keeping donors engaged and coming back for more most often means finding ways to engage without asking. That’s right, this is relationship building, not fundraising.  Fundraising results from relationships—built, tended and valued as though the individual donor were your favorite aunt or a treasured colleague.

And it isn’t even difficult, because you do it in small chunks, one at a time, taking care to personalize each touch and keep it authentic.

Here are a few suggestions; pick one and get started:

  1. Ask yourself, “What does the donor want?” Do they like to stay in touch via print (newsletter, for example or a report from a successful program), face-to-face (coffee date), electronic (an email or text with a link to their particular interest: “I thought of you when I saw this great article on knitting.”)? Find out what they prefer.

  1. Reach out and touch donors during off-peak seasons when they aren’t being inundated with other charity solicitations (think summer vs. Thanksgiving). They are more likely to “hear” what you are saying and to respond. And, even if you get no response, you have made them feel important to your organization.

  1. Look around for what you have in writing from a third party. There’s nothing quite like a newspaper article to trumpet your successes as observed by others.

  1. Be accountable with your donors’ gifts. Trust is a precious commodity, so make sure you are using money raised for the purposes you outlined in your solicitation letters. Then communicate these actions clearly and often.

  1. Share the successful completion of a grant funding cycle for a program your donor loves. For example, you have just completed a report to a foundation on the great work you are doing in your pre-school program. You learned from your evaluation that 5-year-olds were even more ready for school than you thought they’d be—and 96 percent of their parents showed up for a mock teacher conference. Let your donor know!

  1. For those donors who want statistics (and you will have those who prefer this to the “softer” side), provide a personal copy of your latest audit or a chart showing demographics of your clients.

  1. Be sure your most passionate people are involved in these contacts. Don’t be afraid to use program people, your financial team or Board members (all adequately coached, of course) to recognize the value of other people in keeping your donors engaged.

Authenticity and personalized interest in your donors will keep your organizational integrity intact and your donors contributing to your cause.