Love in the Time of Smartphones: How to Digitally Engage Donors

Ryan Jones • Apr 28, 2020
How+to+digitally+connect+with+donors-960w.png

As the internet continues to permeate nearly every aspect of our lives, the way we interact with each other changes as we adapt our communication to utilize new technologies. As part of our efforts to help nonprofits stay at the leading edge, we’ve looked at how to work effectively with a remote team and how to fundraise on the web

But what about building actual, lasting relationships with your supporters when you can’t see them face-to-face?

If you aren’t already working hard on donor engagement, it’s time to get on the trolley. Building strong relationships offers a whole host of advantages for your nonprofit organization, such as:

  • Improved donor retention
  • More sharing between donors
  • Increased volunteering
  • More frequent donations
  • Increased event attendance
  • More recurring donors

As with all things online, there is a tidal wave of options available to your organization when it comes to engaging your donors. But fear not! We’re here to help you navigate the sea of digital tools that will help your supporters fall in love with your nonprofit.

Dedicated to Your Donors

Accepting donations online is a necessity these days, but just asking for money and hoping for the best misses the opportunity to engage with visitors to your site. Try building a donation page that is dedicated to acknowledging the contributions of your donors. It’s a great way to publicly showcase your love for your supporters and for them to see that they matter to your organization, plus it’ll give your digital fundraising a bump.

Things to include:

  • A donor spotlight that features large gifts or long-time recurring donors
  • An explanation of the impact their donation will make
  • Testimonials or quotes from donors

Here’s a good look at a page from The HAPPY Org that seeks to engage with supporters by providing more than just a way to give, offering volunteer opportunities, useful information, photos, and more.

Sit Down and Show Your Appreciation

The importance of thanking your donors cannot be overstated. It’s one of the best things you can do to access the engagement benefits we talked about. And while it would be nice to be able to visit donors at their homes to thank them for their donations, your time is better spent sitting at your computer rather than explaining yourself to the cops.

Say ‘Thank You’ The Right Way

We know creating a thank you letter or email from scratch can be a challenge. We create a guide and 7 customizable templates to thanks donors, volunteers, sponsors, and more!

Here are some ideas to help you thank your supporters without getting up from your chair.

Profile Your Donors

Large, high-profile, or strategic donors can be very helpful to your organization beyond the financial contributions they make. Aligning your nonprofit with immense generosity or a well-known brand can help smaller donors feel that they are part of something bigger that will have a tangible impact on the world. So it’s a great idea to turn the spotlight on different types of donors and thank them in the communication you send to your supporters.

An email newsletter is a great place to start since your list is mainly made up of subscribers who already know your organization and are likely to open your messages.

Another great place to show your appreciation is in your nonprofit annual report. With the increasing importance of small donations, your report is likely to show a large percentage of low-dollar-amount donors, so why not feature one with an interesting story?

Paperless Cards

Paperless cards began their history in the 90s as humble e-vites, encouraging all your fave Hotmail contacts to attend your Clueless-themed birthday party. Then Facebook budged in and gave people the option to embrace their noncommittal inner selves and reply “maybe” to every board game night invite to hit their notifications.

Making plans may have died but paperless cards are still a thing! And you can use them to thank your donors with personalized communication that may be absent from your usual channels. And even though Boomers love to get snail mail, Gen Z is going to have much more long-term importance to your bottom line and they hate wasting paper.

Check out this example from Backpack Buddies that both thanks the donor and acknowledges some specific information about the time the donation was given, which goes a long way toward convincing people that it’s not just a form letter.

Aaaaaand Action!

People love videos. And people love videos that seem to be speaking directly to them. Let’s harness this fact to thank them. A thank you video can be a broad message to your donor base that showcases the impact they’ve had on your organization, like this one from the Nature Conservancy. Or it can be an off-the-cuff snippet recorded on a smartphone sent to an individual donor. Either way, it feels personal and does a lot for your donor relationships.

Be sure to include specific information that pertains to the audience your video is for, like where donations are being used, the size of individual donations, etc. You can also give updates and share success stories. Bonus points if you can convince the head of your nonprofit to star in the video—donors want to give to a person who cares, not just an organization.

Whether you want to thank in bulk or send video messages to individuals, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram will all do the trick. And here are some helpful video tools just in case you aren’t Peter Bogdanovich or whoever:

Post-Donation Pages

Once a donor clicks PAY NOW, that’s the end of the journey, right? Not so fast. 

After someone has given to your cause through your website, there is a great opportunity to keep them engaged and thinking about their next donation.

Rather than a simple confirmation page with a generic thank you message, why not personalize a page for different kinds of donors? From first-time donors to recurring donors, from peer-to-peer fundraisers to any other segment giving to your nonprofit, a thank you page that acknowledges their specific contribution can create an amazing personal connection that will benefit your organization in the future.

Peer-to-Peer is coming soon in Keela

Sign up and be the first to hear about exclusive updates for this next revolution in fundraising communications

Check out these thank you page best practices from nonprofit Jedi, John Haydon. And for a shining example, this thank you page from Charity: Water ticks all the boxes:

Virtual Events

We’ve covered virtual fundraisers recently, but what if you held an online event just to meet with your supporters and NOT ask them for money? The small amount of budget and time invested in an event that recognizes and connects with donors can pay off down the road.

Your event could be a simple meet and greet via Zoom, casual video game night using Twitch, or a Facebook Live interview with someone who has been helped by your organization. 

Remember, your event should be fun and social, so try your best not to bum your audience out with stories about lack of funding or everything that’s wrong with the world.

Virtual Fundraising Events

Your Next Virtual Fundraising Event Could Be Your Best Yet

Use this FREE planner to help your team visualize how much work needs to be done and what should be prioritized prior to the event. 

Get to Know Your Donors

If you don’t feel like you actually know your donors, learning more about them can be a form of engagement itself.  Use your social media channels to ask questions that will both endear your audience to you and provide your nonprofit marketing plan with valuable data.

When you’re sending an email, close with a question that lets donors tell you more about their preferences, why they give, or what is important to them.

If you find yourself without anything specific to promote on social media, ask an open-ended question as a way of starting a discussion. Be sure to respond as quickly as possible to any questions or comments that your audience may ask. Be friendly and respectful even when responding to criticism or complaints. If they know you’re there and you won’t bite, they’ll be more comfortable engaging with you in the future.

When you need more info than one question can provide, go ahead and send a survey. Asking for opinions or ideas from your supporters is a great way to make them feel like they’re part of the process, especially when you share the results and demonstrate that you’re taking their suggestions to heart.

Kickstart Your Blog

There is a reason nearly every commercial business has a blog: they work. Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach a target market, increase awareness, and move them into a sales funnel. So what makes nonprofits any different?

A blog is an incredible – and free – way for you to tell your impact stories to current and potential donors. A compelling story can do more than all the hard statistics in the world because it makes people care.

If you’re just getting started on blogging, or you’ve let your blog lapse for a while, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start by writing small pieces once a month. Once you get comfortable, think about writing that long-form article you’ve had in mind. 

And make sure you collect and save lots of photos to go with your blog posts—a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when you’ve run out of things to write about.

Get a Nonprofit CRM that works for you

Get a Nonprofit CRM That Actually Works For You

This complete guide will help you evaluate your needs and shortlist CRM vendors so you can invest in the right tool for your organization. 

Track Preferences

Engaging with your donors isn’t just about single interactions, it’s about building a relationship over time. So instead of starting fresh each time you communicate with a supporter, track their preferences using a customer relationship management software like Keela.

A quality CRM lets you manage every contact, donor, or volunteer in one comprehensive system. Every time you communicate, the interaction is recorded in your contact history so you can always see where they’ve been and plan where you’d like them to go. 

For a deeper look at making your nonprofit CRM work harder for you, check out this blog post that gets into the nitty-gritty of segmentation, profiles, donor journeys, and everything else that is going to help you understand your audience.

Above All…

When you’re communicating with supporters, try to be as genuine online as you would be face-to-face. The savvier people get with technology, the easier it is for them to tell when they’re being treated like a donation amount instead of a person.