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Are you speaking to your donors’ hearts?

By now, you’ve probably had a chance to read our recent study, “Listen Up: The Nonprofit Marketer’s Guide to What Donors Want.” If not, you should check it out! 

Retention is a struggle for many nonprofit organizations, and this study is all about what drives deeper donor relationships to create long-lasting commitments. 

Our findings indicate that the biggest differentiator between donors who had weak and strong relationships centered around feeling valued and involved. 

But how can nonprofits ensure that they are sparking these feelings and emotions in their donors while also raising much-needed revenue to further their missions?  

By speaking to their hearts.  

How creative can build deeper connections 

Sometimes creative feels one-sided and transactional. After all, nonprofits have to ask for donations to keep their causes running.  

And while donors understand that at some point a nonprofit will ask for a gift again, they expect more from the causes they support year after year.   

But it can’t be the sole basis of the relationship. 

Our study found that 79 percent of donors with strong relationships were very familiar with the nonprofit’s different capabilities, activities and programs. We also found that donors with strong relationships expect more frequent communication.  

So, what does this mean for your creative?  

It points to the need for more frequent, personalized and meaningful connections. Your most committed donors are craving information about your cause, updates on the impact their gifts make and authentic moments that make them feel valued and involved.  

What I’m talking about doesn’t have to be expensive direct mail appeals or time-consuming reports—it can be as simple as emails, videos or social media posts sharing heart-warming stories and engaging conversations that make the relationship feel two-sided.  

Well-rounded communication drives deeper connections 

Our study found that a combination of passive and active communication tactics resulted in more engaged donor relationships. 

With this in mind, it’s important that we consider new technology and alternative channels to build deeper connections with donors. Direct mail is still an important channel for relationship building, but donors with the strongest relationships just expect a more well-rounded experience.  

Thanks to new technology and the rise of digital channels, it’s easier than ever for nonprofits to tap into donors’ feelings, connect with them outside of asking for donations and reinforce relationships. 

Here are just a few ways nonprofits can start to do this:  

  • Incorporate more personalized stewardship touches: Tools like ThankView and ViewSpark allow nonprofits to connect with and thank donors at scale—but in a more personal way. Not only can you personally thank donors for their gift through handwritten notes and phone calls, but you can also communicate updates and share exclusive video content, like interviews with people whose lives have been impacted by their gift, to help deepen their connection and feelings of involvement with you. 
  • Share authentic moments on social: Organic social is an incredible tool for engaging with donors and strengthening their familiarity with your cause. Share authentic moments to connect with your followers’ hearts and remind them why they felt called to support you. Whether that’s stories of success, photos from events or organizational updates, organic social can have a big impact on a large audience without breaking the bank.  
  • Ask for feedback: Conduct surveys, interact with social followers and speak to major donors to build a better understanding of what kind of information is most meaningful to them. Use these findings to tailor your creative—across channels—to let your donors know they’ve been heard.  
  • Test constantly: As always, test and test some more. What’s working? What isn’t? Staying nimble and listening to what works will help you build a better understanding of what is truly building those deep emotional connections with your donors. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that every moment doesn’t have to be a big-ticket item. Sharing real, authentic stories and moments that connect to the heart of your mission will help your donors feel valued and involved with your organization.  

Erin Albitz

Erin Albitz is a highly accomplished and talented creative professional with more than 15 years of experience in creating great fundraising work for nonprofit organizations. In her award-winning career, she has helped grow the revenue of nonprofit organizations both large and small, including American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, World Vision, Operation Smile, Mercy Ships, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Philadelphia Museum of Art, USO, Christian Appalachian Project and The American Legion, as well as many rescue missions and food banks. As Group Creative Director at RKD Group, Erin works in partnership with all teams—sharing best practices, efficiencies and new pathways to greater success for all clients.

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