Donor Engagement: 4 Tips for Boosting Involvement

Donor engagement is the beating heart of any fundraising-centered organization. After all, successfully engaging your donors is what will make the difference between a one-time donation and a long-lasting relationship with a donor

Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t made engaging donors any easier. Not only has it restricted in-person engagements, but it’s also accelerated the rise of new digital engagement strategies, like hybrid and virtual events, that have left many fundraising professionals with their heads spinning. With technology advancing so rapidly and the pandemic’s effects still raging, the future may seem uncertain for your fundraising organization. 

Thankfully, there are still many tips and tricks to keep your donors active and involved in your organization. Follow these tried and true techniques, as well as a few new strategies, to boost your donor engagement now and long after the pandemic is in the rearview mirror: 

  1. Experiment with video content.
  2. Open up your volunteer program. 
  3. Launch fun community event initiatives. 
  4. A little bit of donor appreciation goes a long way. 

Whether you’re part of a nonprofit trying to reduce your donor churn or a PTA team member looking for engaging school fundraising ideas, there is a solution here for anyone hoping to boost their donor engagement. Ready to get your donors excited and involved with your organization? Let’s jump right in!

1. Experiment with video content. 

Videos are a highly effective form of visual storytelling. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then a video is an absolutely priceless way for your organization to engage its audience. In particular, sharing videos of your supporters in action is a great way to build a personal connection with donors and encourage them to continue their support. 

Best of all, any organization can create personalized videos without making a large dent in its budget! Here is a simple step-by-step look at what the video creation process may look like for your organization: 

  1. Filming. To film your content, you can use professional cameras or even your mobile phones. You can script full commercials or even just capture fleeting moments and highlights during your events. Anyone, on any scale, can begin capturing video content. Your events, your volunteers and attendees, and your voice are all powerful elements that can enhance the impact of your videos. 
  1. Editing. Yes, even the editing process can be easy! If you’re worried about the price of creating fun, professional video content, there are plenty of high-quality, free video editing applications. A limited budget or lack of experience won’t stop you from creating quality, engaging content and pushing your outreach techniques to the next level. 
  1. Sharing and promotion. Once you’ve completed your videos, you can then add them to your website, post them on your different social media accounts, or even share them directly with your supporters. There are dedicated donor engagement platforms that can help you email, text, and personally share these moments directly with donors to maximize their engagement potential. 

However you choose to create, edit, or share your content, the key is to shine a spotlight on your donors, show your appreciation, and encourage them to keep up the good work. This could mean that you ask for increased online donations, higher event attendance, or just encourage them to stay involved with your mission. The versatility of this medium and its benefits are all up to you! 

2. Open up your volunteer program. 

Not all support comes in the form of dollars. Volunteering boosts awareness for your brand, increases the success of your events, and builds memorable experiences for your supporters. Donors that join your volunteer program are far more likely to stay involved with your organization than those who just submit an online gift. 

Promote your volunteer program among donors through email blasts, text notifications, and your social media accounts. Be sure to include compelling calls to action, photos or videos of your current volunteers, and clear steps for how donors can sign up for the program. You might even consider segmenting your donors by their past engagement history to send out volunteering opportunities for events that they would most likely enjoy. 

Once you have dedicated volunteers, be mindful of making the experience as positive, fulfilling, and fun as possible to keep them engaged in future events and activities. Volunteer engagement strategies such as personalized communications, feedback surveys, and team-building exercises will ensure that donors stick with your program and stay involved for the long run. 

Finally, be sure to keep track of your volunteers’ hours and data. Volunteer involvement is not only a great way to create meaningful connections between your supporters, but a robust volunteer program could also qualify you for volunteer grants. Between this extra influx of incoming funds and the connections your donors will make throughout their volunteering experience, it’s a no-brainer to encourage your donors to jump into your volunteer program. 

3. Launch fun community event initiatives.

No matter how big or small your organization may be, your local community will always be your most valuable base of support. Even if you have donations coming in from all over the world, local supporters will make up the brunt of your volunteer programs and your event attendance. 

Engage these local donors and build up grassroots support for your organization with these unique fundraising initiatives:  

  • Shoe drive fundraisers. These in-kind fundraisers are especially helpful during such a turbulent time for our economy. With money tight for many of your donors and the pandemic creating a spring cleaning frenzy, this easy and contactless fundraiser can happen with the help of a shoe drive fundraising coordinator. Donors simply have to donate their gently worn, new and used shoes, and your organization will make a profit. 
  • Classes and fun skill-building nights. For an entry fee, your donors can enjoy a night of fun while learning to cook, paint, or dance with the help of a guest host. These events can occur in person or online, and donors will be eager for the chance to let loose and learn something new while exploring their creative sides. 
  • Themed 5Ks and walk-a-thons. 5Ks and walk-a-thons are a classic choice for any fundraising organization. These events encourage a high level of volunteer involvement, engage all community members, and offer up a great opportunity for sales merchandising and partnerships with local businesses. These events can even be held virtually with the right distance-tracking tools or apps for participants to record their progress. 

For more engaging fundraising events, check out this Funds2Orgs master list of nonprofit fundraising ideas. While your organization may not be a nonprofit, these versatile event ideas will work for any organization hoping to make a splash in its community and wow its donors. 

4. A little bit of donor appreciation goes a long way.

According to Bloomerang’s article on donor appreciation strategies, one study showed 13% of charity donors cited a lack of a “thank you” as the reason they stopped giving. In addition, 9% had no memory of giving and 36% found other causes more deserving. Donor appreciation helps to create a more personal connection between you and your donors and incentivizes them to stick with your organization and continue their support. 

To minimize attrition and boost your donor engagement, here are a few acts of appreciation you might consider: 

  • Thank-you letters. Writing personalized donor thank you notes is a great way to give donors a tangible, meaningful reminder of how much their gift meant to you. While you should be sure to send a digital thank you right after their donations are submitted, these personalized letters will keep your donors thinking about your organization long after they give their initial gift. 
  • Appreciation gifts. T-shirts, bracelets, water bottles, and other branded merchandise give donors a unique item through which to remember your organization. Not only that, but they also increase exposure for your cause as donors wear or carry them in. 
  • Exclusive events. Thank-you luncheons and donor appreciation dinners are popular event types that can either be open to all of your donors or reserved for special groups, such as major givers. These events can be in-person or virtual, fundraising-related or purely done for stewardship, and they provide an excellent opportunity for your fellow donors to network with one another and form bonds within your organization. 
  • Event and news updates. Even something as simple as updating your supporters about your campaigns and events or news that may interest them is a form of appreciation. Segment your donors by engagement history, skills and personal interests, and other defining characteristics to send them invitations and updates that would appeal to them. 

Not every form of appreciation has to be tied up with a big bow or seriously drain your organization’s funds. Gratitude comes in many forms, with unique advantages and opportunities for each type of donor appreciation. The important thing is to make a point of treating your donors like individuals rather than sources of money. This kind of donor stewardship is an essential building block to engaging and retaining your supporters beyond their initial gifts. 

As a result of the current health crisis and our changing engagement landscape, many organizations struggle to beat back donor attrition. Now more than ever, donor engagement has become a critical objective that no fundraising organization can afford to lose. 

With these effective, versatile engagement strategies in your organization’s toolbelt, you can secure your organization’s future success with donor retention, acquisition, and increased support far into the future. 

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.

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