Donors power your nonprofit’s work. Without them, you could never deliver your mission to your beneficiaries. And yet some nonprofits make the mistake of viewing their donors as blank checks instead of people. This can be detrimental to your nonprofit’s efforts to fundraise and grow its community.
That’s why focusing on donor relations is so critical for nonprofits—strengthened donor relationships empower you to accomplish your goals and connect with other people who are passionate about your cause and can offer sustained support for your work.
What Is Donor Relations?
Donor relations consists of all the efforts that a nonprofit organization puts into building relationships with its donors and making them feel seen and valued as people.
Your efforts to cultivate lasting relationships with your donors should begin when you first connect with them, whether through prospecting or the donors’ own moves to get involved with your organization. Then, you can continue to build those relationships so that they last.
Donor Relations vs. Donor Stewardship
Often when talking about donor relations, you’ll hear the term “donor stewardship” come up. This makes sense since the two go hand in hand. But there are important differences to note:
- Donor relations: This relates to how you treat donors and how they perceive your organization.
- Donor stewardship: Donor stewardship is a form of donor relations that is more specifically employed to express gratitude for gifts and maintain and grow relationships with donors with the goal of them continuing to give in the future.
In other words, donor relations focuses on donors themselves, while its subset, donor stewardship, focuses on donors’ gifts. Both are a critical part of a sustainable and successful fundraising strategy.
Why Should Nonprofits Focus on Donor Relations?
Focusing on donor relations requires an investment of your nonprofit’s time and resources. But doing so can pay dividends as you experience the following benefits:
- Increased giving and involvement: Better donor relations leads to higher donor retention rates, which can result in more donations over time, as well as other forms of involvement like volunteering, event attendance, and board service.
- More information about your organization’s community and its needs: The better you get to know your donors, the better you’ll understand your organization’s community and what it needs from you to assist you in delivering your mission.
- Stronger reputation for your organization: When you treat your donors well, word gets around, strengthening your image as an organization that cares about people and making positive change in the world.
In addition to these benefits, focusing on donor relations just makes logical and financial sense. Some nonprofits are misguided in thinking that skipping crucial opportunities to boost donor relations is the easy way out. In reality, constantly having to acquire new donors and supporters can be more costly and difficult than investing in your relationships with those who are already contributing to your cause.
6 Tips for Strengthening Donor Relationships
Now that you know the basics of donor relations, you’re likely ready to start strengthening the relationships you have with your donors. Here are six tips for doing so:
- Lay a solid foundation by conducting thorough prospect research. Prospect research empowers you to learn about your donors before they actually become donors. Through this process, you learn as much as you can about potential donors’ capacity to give and their affinity for your cause, which can guide you in the relationship-building process.
- Get to know your donors. Prospect research won’t be able to tell you everything about your donors. You’ll need to regularly meet with your donors, having an open mind and listening ear, to really get to know them as people.
- Work with a nonprofit consultant to fine-tune your strategy. Sometimes it can be helpful to work with an outside expert to fine-tune your approach to fundraising and donor relations. Consider working with a nonprofit consultant who can take an objective look at your current approach and help you implement sustainable improvements.
- Communicate often. Just like any relationship in life, staying in touch will be a crucial part of remaining connected to your donors. Reach out often, whether you’re making regular phone calls or chatting over coffee.
- Invite donors to further their involvement in your cause. Donating isn’t the only value donors can give to your cause. Let them know about opportunities to volunteer, attend events, or even serve on your board. Better yet, keep an eye out for opportunities that align with their values and interests so that they’ll be more inclined to jump in.
- Genuinely thank your donors. Any time a donor gives, whether they’re contributing time, money, or feedback, make sure to thank them. A small thank-you can go a long way in helping you maintain and strengthen donor relationships.
Donor relations is a critical focus area for nonprofits who want to pursue sustained success and future growth. Run with these tips to strengthen your relationships with your donors!
Nonprofit Catalog – Read up on more nonprofit essentials by exploring our Nonprofit Catalog.
Creating a Capital Campaign Plan: Complete Guide & Template – Donor relations gets a little more complicated with large-scale capital campaigns. Learn how to set yourself up for success by exploring this guide.
Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Your Nonprofit’s Guide — Peer-to-peer fundraising gives donors the unique opportunity to fundraise on your behalf. Check out how it works!