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5 Ideas for Better Online Donor Stewardship

By Jay Love, Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang

Turning first-time donors into recurring supporters is easier said than done. Research shows that over 70% of donors never return to make a second gift.

This challenge reveals the importance of building genuine donor relationships. When donors feel connected to your cause, they’re much more likely to stay involved over time, thus boosting your donor retention rate.

In today’s donor retention landscape, online platforms are some of the most important channels for donor engagement and stewardship. A robust online donor stewardship strategy lets you connect with donors on the platforms they use most every day.

Try these five ideas to revamp your online donor stewardship approach:

  1. Automate your thank you messages.

  2. Learn more about your donors.

  3. Spotlight donors on multiple platforms.

  4. Show donors how you’re using their gifts.

  5. Use surveys to gather feedback.

Keep in mind that you can use these strategies for more than just online fundraising campaigns. Whether you connected with donors during an online campaign or an in-person fundraising event, these tips will help you keep in touch with them.

1. Automate your thank you messages.

Sending prompt donor thank you letters is the first step toward building a strong online donor stewardship strategy. When donors know that your organization received their gift and appreciated it, they’re more inclined to give again.

Your donation acknowledgments or receipts can easily be automated using your donor management platform. This helps your team save time while ensuring that donors are recognized for their contributions immediately after giving.

Although you might automate your thank you messages, they should still be genuine and personable. Kwala’s guide to writing donor thank you letters recommends plugging the following specific details into your messages:

  • Donors’ names

  • Donation amounts (on tax receipt only)

  • The date of each gift (on tax receipt only)

  • The name of the campaign that the donor supported

Including these personalized details ensures each donor still feels recognized and appreciated as a unique individual, even if you’re using a set-it-and-forget-it template.

2. Learn more about your donors.

Make an effort to get to know donors on a personal level. Use your donor management system to track relevant donor information that helps you understand who your supporters are and what motivates them. This might include:

  • Important dates like their birthday or anniversaries that are meaningful to them

  • Details about their families, such as whether they have kids or grandkids

  • Past involvement with your nonprofit, such as donating or volunteering

Gather this information through phone calls, surveys, or in-person meetings. When you track these specific details, you can surprise and delight donors by referencing your past conversations. For example, you might send a special birthday email or remind donors about an upcoming volunteer event that’s similar to a past opportunity they participated in.

This shows donors that you’re invested in building a real relationship with them, increasing the likelihood that they’ll want to support your organization over the long run.

3. Spotlight donors on multiple platforms.

Publicizing your donor appreciation shows current and potential new supporters that your organization recognizes and appreciates the value that donors bring to your organization. Unless a donor has asked to remain anonymous, strategize ways to spotlight donors publicly across multiple online platforms, such as:

  • Social media. Tag donors in Facebook or Instagram posts to say thank you. You can also create an exclusive donor Facebook group and invite new donors to join. Use the group to highlight exclusive donor opportunities, such as discounted merchandise or early event access.

  • Email. Include a donor spotlight section in your email newsletter. Each time you send the newsletter, you can incorporate a short bio and thank you note for an individual donor.

  • Your website. Create a virtual donor recognition wall that includes the names of all donors to a certain campaign. Separate donors’ names into giving tiers to provide special recognition for your top contributors.

Engaging with donors on multiple platforms helps build a longer-lasting relationship than just sending one or two thank you emails.

4. Show donors how you’re using their gifts.

Ensure all online communications, from your emails to your social media posts and blog updates, tell a clear and compelling story about how donors’ gifts influence your mission.

When donors see that their gifts have a positive impact on your nonprofit’s ability to achieve its goals, they’ll be reassured that they made a wise decision to give.

Bloomerang’s donor management guide recommends communicating about how donations have “helped you achieve a goal, complete a project, fund a program, or work toward another objective.”

Spotlight a main character or protagonist who benefited from donor support. For example, you might interview a community member in need who received warm meals with the help of donor support.

Tell your stories across multiple platforms, such as social media and email, to reach different audiences. This can help create an emotional connection by showing donors exactly who they’re supporting.

5. Use surveys to gather feedback.

Asking donors for feedback shows that you value their opinions and care about creating a better experience for them. You can ask for donor feedback after donors give online or after they attend a fundraising event. Send an email survey with questions like:

  • How did you hear about our organization?

  • What aspect of our mission resonates most with you?

  • How did you hear about our event?

  • How could we make the donation process more convenient?

  • What is your preferred communication method?

  • How likely are you to donate to our organization again?

  • How likely are you to attend another event with our nonprofit?

Thank respondents for providing their input and follow up with them after receiving all survey responses. Summarize the feedback you received and highlight specific plans for addressing donors’ comments.

Engaging with donors online allows your nonprofit to create open lines of communication and build more personal connections. Donors will appreciate your efforts to engage with them over the long term, which will help boost your retention rate and donor lifetime value.

Special thanks to guest blogger Jay Love, Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang.


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