Donor loyalty is an important aspect of nonprofit fundraising campaigns. In fact, it represents a source of reliable funding for the launching of initiatives while creating a community of support around a cause and the achievement of long-term objectives. However, creating a donor stewardship program can be a challenge for organizations because expectations and priorities can change over time and the options for supporting a cause are numerous.
Renewing, growing and maintaining ties with donors is therefore a winning strategy. In fact, the Impact 4.0 report, produced and unveiled in June 2022, by BNP Philanthropic Performance and its partners showed that 45% of donors loyal to a cause for five years gave more than five years earlier. In addition, they are five times more likely to consider a planned gift for a cause than one-time donors (Blakely, The Truth About Donor Experience and its Impact on Giving p.6).
It is therefore important for organizations to understand that philanthropy is based on developing relationships between donors and the cause. To achieve this, they must focus on developing personal relationships; the ones on which loyalty is based.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the six (6) steps to creating a loyalty program and the five (5) tactics that can help your organization build donor loyalty to sustain your cause.
Create a donor stewardship program in six (6)steps
Developing a donor stewardship program involves putting specific strategies and activities in place to thank people who make regular donations to your organization. It can include clubs, exclusive member benefits, small group events, specific updates and gifts for people who make meaningful donations.
To create such a program, it is important to:
- Define program objectives, such as donor recognition, retention criteria and future giving increases, etc.
- Communicate clearly by evaluating potential benefits for donors, such as exclusive guided tours, private workshops, small group events, etc. Clearly determine a communication strategy as well as the various channels and tools to be put in place to clearly communicate the various advantages associated with the stewardship program that will encourage people to become members.
- Establish criteria for participation with various levels of support based on the amount of the donation that offers exclusive member benefits at each level.
- Create a tracking system by putting processes in place to track members and that gives them access to exclusive benefits.
- Regularly evaluate the stewardship program to ensure that it is achieving its set objectives and make changes, if necessary.
- Segment databases to automate follow-up with donors and allow your organization to personalize communication based on their needs and interests. For example, a frequent donor may receive updates that will allow them to give more frequently, unlike someone who gives less often. Automating follow-up can also make your database management easier and save you time, as you will be able to use certain tools that automate tasks, such as sending emails, updating contact information, etc.
However, it is essential to remember that the processing and management of donor information must be done in a confidential manner.
To go into the details of the actions that can result from a stewardship program, we propose several tactics. These may inspire you, but don’t forget that you must adapt your initiatives according to your particular activity and the expectations of your donors.
6 tactics to inspire you
Provide a positive experience
Giving donors a positive experience helps build loyalty and strengthens the relationship with your organization. Here are some steps you can take to provide a positive experience:
- Make the Donation Process Easy: You can use easy-to-use online donation platforms with secure payment options. It is also recommended to simplify the donation process as much as possible and avoid long and complicated forms.
- Offer Meaningful Thanks: You should thank your donors for their generosity and commitment to your cause. This includes: personalized letters, updates on how their donations are being used, invitations to special fundraising events, and more.
- Provide Regular Updates: You should provide regular updates to your donors on progress and ongoing initiatives, as well as the impact of their donations.
- Personalize the Experience: You can personalize the experience for your donors by providing donation options tailored to their preferences while providing opportunities for meaningful engagement and respecting communication preferences.
It is important to build trust with your donors and to show them that their support is valuable, has a real impact and is important to you.
Here are some ideas for how to best engage them:
- Ask for Their Opinion: You can ask for their opinion on your initiatives and programs. It will make them feel involved and considered.
- Create Opportunities for Engagement: Loyal donors are often those who are most committed to organizations outside of giving. It’s important to provide them with opportunities to connect more with your cause. You can invite them to events or volunteer activities (to be part of a committee, board etc.) This will allow them to feel involved and to see the impact of their donations in action.
- Organize Fundraising Events: This type of event will allow you to involve your donors, but will also raise their awareness and ultimately increase your profile and that of your initiative.
- Focus on Personalization: By personalizing your communications, you take into account the interests of your various donors and their previous commitment thus making your relationship more authentic.
It is important to take the time to meet individually with major donors in order to better understand their personalities, interests and motivations. People loyal to your cause can often become spokespersons or even advocates of your cause because of the positive and significant relationship that you have been able to establish. Be sure to treat them with respect and gratitude, because that way you’ll be able to better target them for projects that may interest them more. Here are some tips for nurturing your relationship with your loyal donors:
- Establish Regular Communications: Keeping them informed of your organization’s accomplishments and challenges can build their engagement and trust. Remember that the primary motivation, according to Blakely, for renewing a donation is to know the impact generated by one or more donations (The Truth About Donor Experience and its Impact on Giving p.9). The second motivator is the trust people have in the organization.
- Provide Financial Transparency: You need to be transparent about how donations and fundraising expenses are used. This will show donors that you are an honest organization and that you work responsibly.
- Listen to Your Donors: By listening to their comments and concerns, you will demonstrate that you consider, respect and really listen to your donors.
Your donors are valuable partners; so it is essential to show that their support is appreciated and important to your organization. By communicating regularly and being transparent, you can strengthen the relationship and encourage them to continue supporting your cause.
Communicate regularly with donors
Donors like to be informed of the achievements of the projects they support. It is essential to maintain regular communication in order to strengthen the relationship with your organization and as we have seen previously, to show the impact of their donations.
Here are some ways to keep in touch on a regular basis:
- Newsletters: You can send newsletters regularly to keep your donors informed of your latest news, your current initiatives and your achievements.
- Social Media Posts: Social media is a great way to post updates on your progress, ongoing initiatives, and the impact of donations.
- Events: You can organize events to thank and involve them, such as:
- Fundraising events
- Field visits that allow them to see the concrete results of their donations
- Networking receptions that allow them to meet other people involved in the organization and learn more about the activities
- Donor clubs and donors by levels of contribution with specific recognition to encourage them to grow their gifts
- Workshops and seminars that offer them the opportunity to develop their skills and better understand your organization (eg presentations by experts on topics relevant to the cause)
- Recognition events, such as award ceremonies or recognition dinners for major donors
- Online Events: You can organize online events, such as:
- Webinars on relevant topics that provide an opportunity to learn new perspectives and better understand the challenges facing your organization
- Live Q&A sessions with key staff or volunteers to allow them to ask questions and learn more about your activities
- Virtual tours of facilities or projects to see the results of their donations
- Online recognition events (which can be live), social media or video recognition
- Email Updates: By sending email updates, you let them know about the latest news and progress.
- Website Updates: You can create great content by including useful and relevant information about your donors. By using visuals, you have the opportunity to tell the story of your organization and highlight your events and fundraising campaigns. It is also important to update your website regularly to provide up-to-date information.
It is important to adapt your communications to the preferences of your donors and to keep them regularly informed to build trust in your organization.
Offer special and exclusive invitations to donors
Donors appreciate special invitations to events tailored specifically to them. This allows them to develop a sense of belonging and feel particularly considered by your organization. Here are some ideas for giving them special invitations:
- Preview Event: You can offer the most generous people invitations to preview events. This will make them feel privileged and appreciated.
- Meeting with Key Personnel: A private meeting with key personnel in your organization is an exclusive event that allows donors to meet you and better understand how your business works. These meetings can strengthen ties with the organization. It can also prompt additional donations to support your efforts.
- Exclusive Guided Site Tours: Guided and exclusive tours are often more intimate and provide a more substantial experience than regular visits. They may include visits to restricted areas, meetings with experts and other special activities.
- Private Workshops: By organizing private workshops, you help your donors to learn more about your organization’s activities. They can vary considerably depending on your activity and revolve around subjects such as art, cooking, or even well-being. They can be led by experts in their fields or by members of your organization. They are often designed to provide an enriching experience while supporting your organization’s cause.
- Small-Group Events: Hosting small-group events helps build engagement among people who make meaningful gifts. They are often more intimate and allow for a more personal connection with the organization, as well as with the people invited. These events may include dinners, receptions, exclusive tours, performances or leisure activities. They are also an opportunity for organizations to thank and celebrate the financial support of their donors.
- Developing Donor Clubs: Developing multiple clubs can provide your organization with more flexibility. Members of each club can enjoy exclusive benefits based on their level of support, such as exclusive guided tours, private workshops, small group events or other exclusive experiences. Clubs can also help you build a diverse community of support, develop privileged group membership, increase member loyalty, and ultimately drive a progression in giving. It is important to clearly communicate the benefits associated with each club to encourage people to join.
In summary, developing personal and meaningful relationships with donors is key to improving their loyalty. Retention is a rigorous process that includes recognition but goes far beyond that. Your organization can do this by creating a stewardship program, personalizing communications and follow-up, offering exclusive benefits, showing appreciation and gratitude, and also providing opportunities to further engage with your cause. It is by implementing all these actions that you will be able to improve the loyalty of your donors and encourage them to continue supporting your long-term mission.