Increasing Donor Engagement: Best Practices to Know Now

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For nonprofits today, increasing donor engagement is always top of mind. Engaged donors stay in touch with your organization, leading not just to recurring contribution, but raised awareness as they spread the word about your mission among family and friends. But what can you actually do to promote donor engagement? We delve into some steps below that will deliver real results.

1. What are Your Goals?

Of course, the ideal way for your donors to engage is by donating, but there’s more to the equation than that. When crafting a strategy to amp up your donor engagement, it’s important to go into it with a clear goal, knowing exactly what type of engagement you’re looking for. Are you wanting to improve your newsletter open rate? Would you like to see more of your followers liking and sharing on social media? Maybe you want to move your online donors to offline ways of communication? Whatever your objectives are, clarity will help you get the results you want.

Some examples of engagement KPIs:

  • Email open rates
  • Recency of giving
  • Social media followers on your organization’s accounts
  • Social media engagement on your organization’s accounts
  • Number of emails sent vs donations received

2. Who’s Your Audience?

After you know your goals, the next step is to know your audience. The key to achieving this step is analytics and metrics. As much as possible, every aspect of your audience and your interactions with them should be quantified. Track how you are gaining most of your new donors, and the channels through which your existing ones keep in touch. Break down your audience into demographics – this information will help you to understand their preferences. Once you have a clear portrait of your donors and the journey they take with your organization, you can tailor your strategy to them – from communicating in relatable, jargon-free language, to choosing the channels they prefer, whether that’s email, social media, or even texting.

3. Understand What Drives Them

Understanding your audience’s motivations will guide how you should communicate. For example, if most of your donors were driven to get involved based on the work you do, focus on communicating impact. Through all your donor communications, show them the difference that their donations are making to your organization’s important mission.

Or, perhaps your donors are motivated by community – maybe the cause is a relevant one in their city or town, and they want to be part of the excitement. In that case, give your donors lots of ways to share their donations and involvement with their friends, through social media badges or in person, through t-shirts and stickers.

4. Give Them Ways to Get Involved

It may sound obvious, but if you want your donors to engage beyond the moment they make a donation, you need to give them options on how to do that. What those options are will vary with your nonprofit’s mission and goals, but there’s an endless variety of ways you can invite donors to interact not only with your organization, but with each other. What about a Facebook group where supporters can chat and keep up, with recurring weekly discussion threads? Maybe you could borrow a popular Instagram marketing technique and host a contest or giveaway with a relevant prize. If you want to promote face-to-face engagement, try hosting volunteer or supporter events or meetups. Peer-to-peer fundraising events are also fantastic engagement drivers.

5. Mix it Up On Social – But Keep it On-Brand

Your social media content should be as varied as possible while retaining a consistent message. Try releasing 5 to 7 different versions of the same message and slightly changing up any images or text. This will allow the message to be spread more widely as people are motivated to share the content that they personally connect with. For example, try releasing an informational graphic with an image that may appeal more to parents, and one that may appeal more to young people. You can also try releasing the same information as video versus text, or as an Instagram story versus an Instagram post.

6. Hygiene is Everything

Your email marketing will be worthless if you aren’t reaching the right people. First of all, make sure you are removing any defunct or inactive addresses.

Second, segmenting is everything for nonprofit email marketing. You can segment your donor email addresses into categories based on age, interests, giving history, donor status, preferred giving channels, and more. Segmentation will ensure that you aren’t communicating with someone who’s just signed up for your mailing list the same way you’d speak to a long-time recurring donor.

7. Listen and Mind Your Manners!

Just like in a real conversation, listening is equally important as talking. Make sure you are tracking the results of your engagement campaign, paying attention to results as a way to inform yourself about donor preferences. Be a good conversationalist – thank your donors, and engage back with them – by replying to social media comments and acknowledging them on all platforms, whether that’s by phone or text, email, or face to face. These polite engagement practices will ensure your donors feel like part of something and keep them coming back for more.

8. Be Creative

There’s no end to the ways you can engage with your donors and supporters. We’re all familiar with the typical channels of communication – phone, email, social media – but what about making things more fun? Try posting a wishlist, rather than just asking for cash donations. Having the chance to donate actual goods your organization needs can feel so much more personal than writing a check, and help donors to feel like they’re part of the work you’re doing, too. Think about ways you can communicate impact – adoption-style campaigns, where you sponsor an animal or child in need, give participants a much richer experience than a simple one-time or recurring donation.

As you can see, there are real steps and strategies to improve donor engagement. By making engagement a top priority, your organization can build a dedicated network of engaged donors who not only help your organization financially, but stay in touch with your mission and spread awareness too.

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