Six Underappreciated Opportunities to Connect with Your Donors
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.
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. The process of learning about, processing, and giving advice creates supporters who are more connected to and feel more invested in your work. Seeking advice in this way should be done face-to-face and not with a survey.
2. January through March: Philanthropy is generally slower between January and March, but this doesn’t mean you should stop communicating with your supporters during this time. Though people may not be giving, they are probably paying attention. 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 advisors in the coming months.
3. 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. 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. Next, 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.
4. After they volunteer: Research shows that volunteering for an organization increases the likelihood that someone will make a financial contribution to it. 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. After a volunteer experience is also a good opportunity to get supporters’ advice about your programs and learn more about them and their interests.
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.
6. During a natural disaster or current news event: If your organization works with populations or communities impacted by natural disasters or current events in the news, 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.
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.