4 Strategies to Encourage Richer Donor Relationships


Relationships with donors are key to the success of every nonprofit. Use these marketing strategies to cultivate richer relationships with your donors.

As a nonprofit professional, you know the value of relationships in the nonprofit sector. Strong relationships with constituents help you obtain donations, grants, and other invaluable support. To retain supporters and encourage sustainable revenue for your organization, you need to intentionally and continuously build relationships.

In this guide, we’ll cover strategies to leverage marketing and outreach tactics to build rich relationships with your donors. Dedicated donor stewardship strategies allow you to prioritize building relationships with donors that encourage long-term retention.

To start cultivating richer relationships with your supporters, follow these steps:

  1. Personalize your outreach efforts.
  2. Share impact stories with your supporters.
  3. Provide numerous opportunities for donors to get involved.
  4. Show your appreciation for every donation.

Every nonprofit is built on relationships. Take advantage of these opportunities to enhance your stewardship efforts to ensure that you’re giving your donor relations enough attention.

1. Personalize your outreach efforts.

The first step to creating lasting relationships with donors is making sure they know that you see them first and foremost as individuals. Show donors you understand that they each have something unique to contribute to your organization by personalizing your outreach and marketing efforts.

Use these personalization strategies to tailor your outreach to every donor:

  • Use their preferred name in communications. Use names prominently in the subject line of email appeals and throughout direct mail. If select donors are comfortable with it, you can also use social media to personally recognize contributions.
  • Leverage information about their motivations and preferences. Track data in your CRM about donor demographics and giving histories, then let data inform your marketing decisions. Note not only which campaigns an individual donates to and how much, but also which communication channels they prefer to engage with and any information you glean from feedback surveys.
  • Invite donors to get involved in things they’re interested in. Once you understand a donor’s preferences, reach out to them specifically to suggest activities and events you think they’ll have an interest in. Base these suggestions on a donor’s giving history, reasons for donating, and engagement history.

Use this type of information to also segment your donor base for more efficient targeted outreach. Create groups of supporters based on their shared histories and preferences, then tailor your outreach for each segment. This will save your team time and allow you to provide personalized messaging without having to send individual notes to every one of your donors. 

For example, major donors warrant different types of stewardship than minor or mid-level donors. While you might invite your major donors to the VIP table at your annual gala, for example, your lower-level donors might be more interested in volunteering opportunities where they can get to know more about your organization.

2. Share impact stories with your supporters.

Impact stories help your donors feel more connected to your cause and want to get involved again in the future. Use marketing to tell stories that demonstrate this impact so that supporters can see how their gifts support your mission.

To convey your organization’s impact well, Meyer Partners’ nonprofit storytelling guide recommends focusing first on the people your organization helps. Then, go step by step to identity all parts of your nonprofit’s story:

  1. characters;
  2. setting;
  3. theme;
  4. conflict and resolution; and,
  5. call to action.

Nonprofits use rich storytelling, matching a face with the impact and showing how the donor’s resources help someone get back on their feet. Choose the story you know will resonate with your audience most, keeping in mind that you can vary your storytelling for different donor segments.

3. Provide numerous opportunities for donors to get involved.

The first donation a supporter makes is only the beginning of their relationship with your organization and their journey with your mission. To encourage the growth of this relationship, provide actionable next steps in their donor journey so your donor can get more involved with your organization.

Go beyond donations, finding new ways to actively engage supporters. Actions you can suggest to get further involved include:

  • Sign up for your newsletter. If you don’t have a newsletter signup embedded in your donation form or confirmation page, you can include the option in a thank-you email.
  • Download a guide to learn more about your mission. In addition to your thank-you email, invite supporters to learn more about your mission by downloading a comprehensive guide on the subject.
  • Volunteer for your organization. Give details about specific upcoming opportunities, and provide links to volunteer registration pages.
  • Submit matching gift requests. 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics estimate that up to seven billion dollars of matching gift funds go unclaimed each year, usually because supporters don’t know they’re eligible. Provide information about these programs and how donors can check their eligibility.
  • Share their gift on social media. Provide sharing buttons on your donation confirmation page and appreciation email so that recent donors can easily share their contribution on the social media platform of their choice.

None of these requests ask for more than time from your supporters. These simple actions enable them to continue interacting with your cause, which strengthens their initial connection with you and provides a solid foundation on which to build a relationship.

4. Show your appreciation for every donation.

Ample appreciation is a critical part of impactful stewardship. Say thank you after each donation contributed by your supporters, especially after the first gift. This will help you make the most of your donor acquisition strategy and increase your chances of retaining that donor.

To make the most of your thanks, consider these tips and ideas:

  • Keep it personal. Use the donor’s name and include information about their gift, such as the amount and specific campaign they donated to.
  • Remind them of their impact. Provide concrete examples of how their donation will enact change. Keep your mission at the forefront of your thank-you message.
  • Give a small gift of appreciation. Consider sending out branded stickers, pens, or even t-shirts to donors to show your thanks.

In addition to thanking donors, you’ll need to thank anyone who contributes to your cause in other ways. This includes thanking volunteers, those who contribute in-kind donations, and anyone else who helps your nonprofit’s activities.

Donor stewardship and nonprofit marketing strategies work hand-in-hand. Include these relationship-building techniques in your regular marketing outreach, and you’ll pave the way for richer relationships and lasting donor retention.

Action steps you can take today
  1. Analyze data in your CRM to segment donors into groups for more personalized outreach.
  2. Prioritize storytelling throughout your communications.
  3. Update your donor appreciation strategies and the next steps you provide donors.