Six Underappreciated Opportunities to Connect with Your Donors

By Averill Fundraising Solutions | March 23, 2017 | Annual Funds, Capital Campaigns, Featured News, Leadership Development, Major Gifts, Philanthropy Operations

Strategic communication with supporters is vital to any fundraising initiative. While it is common knowledge that most donations are made on Giving Tuesday and during the month of December, organizations should have a plan to keep in touch with supporters throughout the year.

Given that it costs an estimated five times more to recruit one new donor than to retain a current donor, organizations should look for every opportunity to connect in meaningful ways with supporters.

Following are a few underappreciated opportunities to do so:

These tips should help you connect with donors no matter what time of year. Let’s dive into the first tip!

1. When you need advice

One of the best ways to get someone excited about what you’re doing is to seek their advice. Being offered the opportunity to connect in this way makes your supporters feel needed and appreciated.

Think about it: when someone asks for your advice, listens to what you have to say, and makes a change based on your feedback, it makes you feel like your opinions matter. 

Not to mention, the process of learning about, processing, and giving advice creates supporters who are more connected to and feel more invested in your work.

While surveys allow you to gain feedback from a large pool of supporters, it isn’t the most effective approach. Seek advice from your dedicated supporters and major donors by asking them face-to-face. Taking the time to meet with donors and ask them for feedback shows that you really care about their input.

The final thought: Getting your donors’ feedback can help donors become more invested in your organization. To really connect with donors, skip the surveys and talk with supporters in person.

2. January through March

As a fundraising expert, you’re aware that philanthropy is at its lowest between January and March. However, you shouldn’t stop communicating with your donors during this time. Though people might not be interested in giving, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in hearing from your organization.

After all of the travel and celebrations between Thanksgiving and January, people are ready to stay put and recover from the hectic and expensive months prior – and your messages are more likely to get noticed.

The start of the new year is also a time for reflection and planning for the year ahead – the perfect moment to connect with supporters about your important mission. This may also be a time to encourage people to sign up for a recurring giving program or speak with them about planned giving so that it is top of mind as they meet with tax advisers in the coming months.

Additionally, make sure you have a top-notch social media and email communications plan. By maintaining your communications during these low giving months, you’ll stay in your donors’ minds. That way, when they’re ready to give again, you’ll be at the top of their lists.

The final thought: While January through March might be a slow fundraising period, that doesn’t mean you should stop your efforts. Keep your communications strong and encourage supporters to sign up for recurring donations or planned giving.

3. After they volunteer

Research shows that volunteering for an organization increases the likelihood that someone will make a financial contribution. Key motivators for individuals to make a gift include gratitude, lessons by example, and personal experience, all of which may be gained or enhanced through volunteer experience.

What’s more? Supporters who aren’t ready to make another monetary donation, might be willing to support you through volunteer work.

By encouraging donors to volunteer allows you to build connections by supporting you without dipping into their wallets for the second time. 

Double the Donation has a great list of volunteer management software that can help organizations recruit (and keep) volunteers.

We recommend sending out volunteer opportunities after a supporter donates. You can invite them to attend your event as a guest or help out as a volunteer. Additionally, you can send out emails letting your supporters know of upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Once donors have volunteered, it’s also a good opportunity to get their advice about your programs and learn more about them and their interests.

The final thought: Volunteering is a great way for donors to see your organization in action, bond with other supporters and team members, and further connect with your cause. Plus, it can lead to more donations in the future, so start promoting your volunteer opportunities via email and social media.

4. Return of the “snowbirds”

For those living in northern climates, a decent proportion of your population may live in a warmer climate for several months of the year. These “snowbirds” tend to be between the ages of 50 and 69 and spend up to six months away from their primary home each year.

There are many reasons to engage with this group:

  • First, their ability to maintain two homes is an indicator of wealth.
  • Second, donors born before 1965 account for almost 70% of giving from individuals.

Many snowbirds are part of the biggest and wealthiest generation, which is currently transferring $30 trillion to the next generation. For further encouragement, keep in mind that John D. Rockefeller was considered one of the first snowbirds, spending the winters in Ormond Beach, Florida beginning in 1914.

As snowbirds return home in the spring, make sure you are on their list of people with whom to reconnect. Share with them major developments that occurred while they were away and major plans for the year ahead.

This is also a good time to remind them about the IRA rollover that has now been made permanent for people over the age of 70.5.

The final thought: Snowbirds have the most giving potential and can be vital donors to your organization. When they return home in spring, make an effort to connect with these potential supporters.

5. After you receive a major gift

Giving inspires more giving, and one of the best times to reach out to supporters is when you have great news to share!

Major gifts to your organization provide a vote of confidence in your work. They also indicate success, and everyone wants to be a part of something successful.

When your organization receives a major gift, send out an email to all your donors letting them know about the donation. If it’s part of a fundraising campaign, let them know how much farther you have to reach your goal. 

Donors that see you only have a little left to raise are much more likely to contribute because they want to see you succeed as well as be a part of that success.

The final thought: Major gifts can be a big boost to moral not only for your staff of but also your supporters. Share the news with all your donors to encourage them to give, too!

6. During a natural disaster or current news event

If your organization works with populations or communities impacted by natural disasters or current events, it’s important to capitalize on those opportunities because your cause will be top of mind with your target donor population.

The appeals don’t have to be fundraising focused — they can just be used to raise awareness about your cause and make your donors aware of different ways they can help. If you’re reaching out to donors during a natural disaster (like the ones we’ve experienced recently), it’s important to suggest multiple ways to get involved.

By covering these events and ways supporters can help, you can develop connections with your supporters and show those affected by these disasters that they aren’t alone.

The final thought: Organizations should make a point to reach out to donors during natural disasters and current events to provide them with ways they can help.

There are many other reasons and opportunities to connect with supporters, and having a well-designed plan is your key to success.

Segmenting your list and tailoring both the message and the timing for each constituent group will ensure that you are connecting with different groups of people at the time that is best for them. It is critical that you get to know your audiences well – understand their rhythms throughout the year, know the major annual activities associated with their industry, learn their birthdays and other milestones and use all of this knowledge to their benefit as well as yours.

Kimberly Nemire, Senior Project Manager. Kimberly has more than twelve years experience raising funds for faith-based, higher education, international, and healthcare not-for-profit organizations.

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