PMA Consulting, LLC

Communication is Key to Donor Cultivation

As the new year is closely upon us, it’s important for nonprofits to look both behind and forward when thinking about their donor cultivation efforts. Has your organization been succesful in building a relationship of trust and mutual interest for donors and prospects?

If so, you’re probably taking part in some of the communication avenues outlined below. If not, make 2011 the year for diving into such efforts. Here are eight ways for your nonprofit to keep a dialogue going with donors throughout the year.

E-Mail Newsletters

E-mail newsletters equal cheap, fast, and non-intrusive – making them one of the best ways to stay in touch with your donor base and prospect pool. How often should you send them? At a minimum, quarterly. Once per week is probably the most you can send before they start to wear thin on the recipients.

Snail Mail Newsletters, Letters, and Magazines

These are more expensive than e-mail newsletters, but often seem more “real” to your donors. If you are a small non-profit, start by sending update letters to your list twice annually. As you grow, you can add newsletters, and eventually even a magazine to your repertoire.

Your Website

Think of your organization’s website as a constantly updated and evolving brochure for your non-profit. Keep it updated and engaging, so that donors will want to check it frequently to see how you are using their gifts for maximum impact.

Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites can provide a vital space for two-way dialogue with your donors. Get online and get active in the social media spaces where your donors and target prospects congregate.

Cultivation Events

Non-ask events can be a great way to build your reputation and get new people involved in your efforts. Put together a great host committee and task them with getting “new blood” through the door to hear about your efforts. You can also use these events to keep your current donors engaged and connected with your organization.

Public Relations

You may not think of PR as a strategy for communicating with your donors and prospects, but it is. Donors love to open up the paper and unexpectedly find a story about a non-profit they have been supporting. You can also use press clips as a way to validate your work to donors and prospects.

Phone Calls

Have you called your donors just to say “thanks?” This strategy doesn’t work for all demographics, but for many donors, receiving a call from a board member or staff person, who gives them a quick update and says, “it’s all thanks to you… thank you for your support!” is a real motivator. Check out our previous post about the two important words, “Thank You.” Can your organization run a “thank-a-thon” to make these calls once per year?

In-Person Visits

Once the exclusive purview of large universities and hospitals, in-person visits to major (and even mid-level donors) are now successfully employed by many diverse non-profit organizations. This is the most personal and intimate of all cultivation methods, and requires a well-trained staff.

You don’t have to do every item from the list above, but let’s face it, gifts rarely just “happen.” Utilize the ideas that best fit your organization and the communication can seem almost effortless.

You’ll build a reputation that isn’t based on “asking” but rather “informing.” Donors are more inclined to give to an organization that doesn’t just stand there with its hand out looking for money.