Touch Points Please: Donor Engagement

The most important thing a nonprofit can do to increase its annual fund donors is simple: reach out and touch them.

To ensure a healthy and prosperous year end, your development plan should include sending out an annual solicitation letter as early as November. Much emphasis is placed on making an annual ask, and while this is very important, it’s even more important to be consistently in touch with your donors more than once throughout the year.

Ideally, they should be “touched” six times throughout the year.

In terms of reaching out, think outside the box. While letters, newsletters, or invitations to events are necessary means to communicate with your donors, being creative will make a huge impact on their perception of you organization. Consider when they last were at the museum, or if they have ever come to a foundation event. What about educational classes? Where have they been involved the most?

If they haven’t been a part of anything, or haven’t set foot in your building in the past year, now is a good time for you to take action. Give them a call and invite them to come to a current exhibition, participate in an educational series, or attend an upcoming event that they may be interested in. Schedule a time that they can be accompanied by a staff member or volunteer, and emphasize their importance to your organization.

Follow up with your invitation by calling or emailing to let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them soon, and remember to stop by to say hello when they are there. A great way of keeping up with your touch points for each donor is through many of the new development tracking software systems on the market (like Blackbaud’s many options). By reaching out and continuing to build relationships with donors throughout the year, they know that they are appreciated and will be more receptive to the following solicitation letters.

Another unique way to create positive touch points is to harness the power of social media. Higher education institutions have discovered the benefits of these tools and are using them to further increase communication with their younger audiences. For ideas and examples, check some liberal arts colleges’ websites and take note of their engagement and activity as a thriving web presence. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter and observe their postings and interaction with their fans – there is a lot we can learn from these organizations!

I get a special birthday email every year from my alma mater, and each year it is something I look forward to receiving. It shows me the school is interested in keeping in touch, and I feel like they are paying attention to me as a donor. Something as simple as this makes a huge difference, and can be done without much effort on your part. Collect information from members when they join or sign up for email updates, and send a happy birthday message every year. The return on investment for such a small effort can be immeasurable.

To keep track of your development efforts and donor contacts, keep a chart that details what has been sent or done for each person, and the future plans for engagement. Strategize to make sure these are personalized contact points, and not cookie cutter solicitations.

Most importantly, remember to be creative! Your donors will notice and appreciate the outreach, and you will appreciate their generosity when they return the thoughtfulness.