How to Build Authentic Relationships With Nonprofit Donors

By Ilia Jones | May 2021


Donors are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization. However, constantly asking for money can be draining for you and them. So, how can you interact with new and existing donors in ways that feel authentic?

Focus on Your Donors

While it can seem counterintuitive to focus on your donors instead of the cause that your nonprofit was created to serve, without donors, your organization wouldn't exist. Recognizing them as an essential part of the cause can increase the number of donations you get and help you attract and retain consistent donors.

So, put the focus on connecting with your donors, like creating opportunities for community and two-way communication. 

Your donors (like all of us!) are inundated with email, social media, advertising and newsletters, all clamoring for their attention online. By reaching out to your donors in ways that feel authentic and tailored to them and their reasons for supporting your cause, you can create deep, lasting relationships. 

Create Interactive Donor Opportunities

While we may not be able to hold large in-person events in the near future, creating "face-to-face" interaction can help your donors feel seen, heard, and like they are a part of the community and the solution. 

Consider creating small groups of donors that meet regularly to focus on a particular part of your cause or operations. Think of it as a sort of mini steering committee. Getting donors in on the action and involved helps strengthen their bond to your organization and cause. 

Annual events are another great way to get donors together to interact with you and each other. Whether held in-person or online, these keystone events can motivate your donor base. When you schedule an exciting speaker or entertainer to be a part of the event, your existing donors are more likely to invite friends and family to participate as well. 


Listen to Your Donors

Find ways to reach out to your donor base and find out what's on their minds. Ask them questions that go deeper and get them to really think about and consider the challenges and potential triumphs that come with addressing your particular cause. Then listen thoughtfully to their responses and take action on what they are telling you. 

  • Why are they interested in your cause?
  • What sort of issues get them invigorated to donate or volunteer?
  • How do they prefer to communicate with you?
  • What motivates them to share your mission and message?
  • How would they like to take action?

You can use social media interactions, emailed surveys and online events to find out more about your donor base. Then use that knowledge to make changes, develop new programs and find ways to keep your donors engaged and enthusiastic about supporting your organization. 

Engage with Donors to Retain Them

As with any relationship, you must nurture your donors. It's not enough to focus on growing your social media following and email list if you're losing donors as quickly as you're gaining them. Nurture your donor list by providing valuable content and experiences rather than just asking for donations.

When you regularly engage donors, your nonprofit organization will stay top of mind. 

The Seven Touch Rule

If you want to focus on gaining and retaining donors and creating an authentic relationship with them, consider implementing the Seven Touch Rule. This rule stipulates that you should contact, or "touch," your donors a minimum of seven times per year. This does not include fundraising! 

Ways that your organization may touch your donors:

  • Email newsletters
  • Thank you letters
  • Progress reports
  • Annual reports
  • Invitations to events, fundraisers or volunteer opportunities

For more impact, types of contact should be personalized and make your donor feel special and appreciated. These types of communication are essential for building credibility, showing appreciation and highlighting what your organization is accomplishing.

And while, of course, you'll reach out periodically for donations, making sure that isn't the only reason you contact donors is essential. After all, you're investing in your relationship with each and every donor, not focusing on their contributions to your organization.

Authentic Relationships Gain Donors for Life

As a nonprofit organization, you depend on donors to help you serve your cause. So make sure they know they are appreciated! When you build relationships with the people behind the donations, you keep them involved and engaged in your cause for life.



Topics: Nonprofit Help