When you build strong relationships with your donors, you’re increasing the odds that they will continue supporting you now and in the future. However, building relationships isn’t just an important part of the donor journey—it’s crucial for maintaining strong connections with all of your organization’s supporters, including your volunteers, corporate partners, and other community members. 

According to Bloomerang’s donor stewardship guide, focusing on relationship-building efforts can boost your donor retention rate. This will help you attract a strong, tight-knit community of individuals who will support your organization year after year. 

Here are just a few of the strategies you can use to steward your donors:

  1. Learn about your audience.
  2. Segment your supporters.
  3. Engage with your community.
  4. Express your appreciation. 

According to Bloomerang’s donor stewardship guide, relationship-building efforts can boost your donor retention rate. This helps you build a strong, tight-knit community of individuals who support your organization year after year.

1. Learn about your audience.

The first step to building any relationship—whether with prospective donors, volunteers, or corporate partners—is to learn more about your audience. This will make your relationship-building efforts more personal and genuine.

How do you do that? One way to learn about your supporters is by collecting data. Use tools such as your nonprofit’s donor management software and online giving platform to collect basic information about your donors, such as their contact information and donation history. You can also use various third-party data providers to gather more in-depth information about supporters, such as their philanthropic history or interests. 

NPOInfo recommends collecting data such as your target audience’s:

  • Demographics. This information, which can include things like someone’s age, employment status, and educational background, can provide insight into the best ways to reach them. Knowing your audience members’ relative age range can help you choose how to communicate with them. For example, if you know that your younger supporters prefer to make donations online, point them to that call to action when sending an appeal. 
  • Interests or hobbies. Are your audience members animal lovers? Active readers? Furniture restoration enthusiasts? Knowing about their hobbies can help you create events and fundraising opportunities that align with their interests. You can gather this information through a market research provider or by sending surveys to target audience members. 
  • Philanthropic involvement. Inquire about your supporters’ history of donating, volunteering, or advocating for your mission or a similar cause. The more dedicated your supporters are, the more likely they will be to make a donation to a nonprofit like yours.
  • Giving capacity. Wealth screening allows you to determine someone’s giving capacity, which can help you identify which donors might be most interested in and capable of making a major gift to your nonprofit. If you’re looking for a tool to help with this, search for a donor management software or nonprofit CRM that offers built-in wealth screening tools to get an at-a-glance view of your prospects’ giving capacity. 

Once you know how to appeal to supporters and prospective donors, you can group them by their interests or other factors. This is called segmentation, which we discuss in the next section.

2. Segment your supporters.

Segmentation is the process of grouping supporters based on shared characteristics and interests. Use the data you collect to create groups based on who you’re trying to reach. 

You can create segments for any type of supporter—your donors, volunteers, corporate partners, etc. This allows you to send more personalized content that would resonate with each group without having to create unique messages for every individual supporter. 

Looking for examples? Here are a few ways you could segment your donors:

  • New donors
  • Long-time donors
  • Major donors
  • Monthly donors
  • Lapsed donors
  • Donors who volunteer
  • Volunteers with a high likelihood of donating
  • Younger donors
  • Older donors

After sorting donors into these categories, you can personalize your outreach messages to each group. For example, you might send new donors information about your nonprofit’s history and mission—information that may not be relevant to share with your long-term supporters. For those long-term donors, you could instead share a survey asking for their feedback on why they first donated to your cause and what motivated them to continue supporting your mission. 

3. Engage with your community.

Your local community can be a powerful source of support for your organization. When you invest energy into your community, you’ll likely receive that energy and more back from community members. 

Here are a few ways your nonprofit can better engage with your community: 

  • Participate in community events. From hosting a booth at the weekly farmers’ market to speaking at a local nonprofit sector conference, engaging with supporters at local events can help raise awareness about your cause. Take these opportunities to talk to potential new supporters in person, recruit volunteers and donors, and establish your nonprofit’s reputation as a force for good in your community. 
  • Attend networking events. Participating in local networking events hosted by businesses, associations, or other nonprofit organizations can help you connect with professionals in other sectors. Once they express interest in your work, suggest ways you can collaborate. You can invite them to sponsor an event, support one of your fundraisers by matching donations, and more.
  • Offer open community events and workshops. Hosting community events such as workshops, conferences, networking events, or movie nights can be a great way to offer a valuable free experience for community members. Think about what events would most benefit the people in your community and then find a way to incorporate your nonprofit’s message or promote your mission at the event. 

Engaging with your community can help you connect with prospective new supporters and retain the support of your existing donors, volunteers, and advocates.

4. Express your appreciation.

Your nonprofit likely couldn’t achieve its mission without the help of loyal donors, volunteers, corporate partners, and advocates. Let supporters know how much you value them by expressing gratitude frequently and in an authentic way. 

Here are a few creative ways to say thank you: 

  • Spotlight donors and volunteers on your social media platforms and in your email newsletter.
  • Send unexpected gifts, such as free merchandise.  
  • Call donors and volunteers to say thank you.
  • List donors’ names in your event marketing materials, like on your t-shirts or flyers. 
  • Send supporters a survey asking for feedback on your donation or volunteer processes to show them that you value their insight.

Showing appreciation for your supporters can help you deepen your relationships with them, making it more likely that these individuals will continue supporting your cause now and in the future.

Building relationships with your supporters can help your nonprofit achieve its fundraising goals and provide the on-the-ground support you need to work toward your mission. By incorporating these strategies into your donor stewardship plan, you can build genuine, long-lasting relationships that benefit your organization and community for years to come.