How to Create an Effective Donor Communications Cadence

Sandra Davis • Aug 18, 2021

Tips for Stewarding Donors Using a Strategic Communication Plan

As a nonprofit development professional, it’s your job to implement and carry out a plan for managing donors and raising funds for your important cause. 

But figuring out the right donor communication frequency can be tricky. You must strike a balance of sending out enough messages to maintain awareness of your organization without overwhelming supporters.

To understand the importance of striking the right donor communications cadence, imagine your donors are your old friends from college. If you send them a text asking them to invest in your new business venture, you probably won’t get a very enthusiastic response if you haven’t spoken to them since graduation. 

However, if you’ve maintained a relationship with them, catching up plenty of times in the years since school ended, you’d probably get a much more positive response. 

Your donors are akin to investors who are deciding whether to commit to supporting your cause long-term. Ensure you’re building a strong relationship with them using the following tips: 

  1. Pay special attention to first-time donors.
  2. Take a multichannel approach.
  3. Personalize donor outreach.
  4. Vary your messaging.
  5. Craft a dedicated plan for high-volume fundraising periods. 

After reviewing these tips, you can incorporate your improved donor communications cadence into your overarching fundraising strategy. As you read through this guide, consider how you can apply each strategy to your organization’s unique circumstances and needs. Let’s take a closer look!

donor stewardship

Build Your Nonprofit’s Donor Stewardship Plan

Stewardship activities are touchpoints for nurturing your donor relationships and helping to increase your donor retention rate. With this FREE template, you can map out your donor stewardship plan.

1. Pay special attention to first-time donors.

Just because someone contributes to your organization once doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be inclined to do so again. Work to keep your organization front-of-mind and foster relationships with first-time donors to create long-term supporters of your organization. 

Cultivating and stewarding new donors is a critical donor stewardship strategy. Retaining donor support is much more cost-effective for your organization than constantly spending time and marketing dollars reaching out to new supporters.

Keela recommends creating a donor stewardship plan to foster your relationships with first-time donors and encourage them to stick with your organization. Your stewardship plan should include the following elements:

  • A personalized welcome letter. Use this message to thank new donors for their support and introduce them to your organization. Include details on your organization’s mission and what their donations support. 
  • Opportunities to engage further. Keep new supporters in the loop by describing your current projects and how they can support your cause. 
  • Frequent communication. Even if your first-time donors don’t immediately contribute again, you can boost the likelihood that they will eventually give again by sending regular updates and reminders. 

Your new donors will take notice of the warm welcome and concentrated efforts to involve them in all that your organization has to offer. These steps are an effective way to establish a strong relationship with new donors from the get-go.

2. Take a multichannel approach.

Imagine opening your email one morning to find five emails in a row from the same organization. You’d probably be a little annoyed and plenty confused!

Don’t put all your fundraising eggs in one basket by communicating with donors over just one channel. By taking a multichannel approach, you ensure that you’re marketing your organization effectively without overwhelming donors on just one platform. 

Consider implementing the following channels in your donor communications plan:

  • Social media: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok facilitate more casual donor engagement. You can use the specific features of each platform to engage supporters. For instance, create a Facebook group to keep supporters informed on your current activities and allow them to interact with your organization in a low-key format. 
  • Email: If you want to communicate with your supporters directly, email is the go-to platform. Send out general updates using your email newsletter, and create donor segments to send tailored messages to each group. 
  • Direct mail: Even though donor communications are taking place more and more over virtual platforms, direct mail still has a place in nonprofit outreach. Direct mail allows you to cut through the digital clutter with a message that your supporters can hold in their hands, leaving a long-lasting impression. 
  • Phone: Since smartphones are practically ubiquitous in modern society, creating a plan to reach out to donors on their mobile devices is an effective way to reach more supporters. You can vary your written communication with occasional phone calls or texts. 

Continuously think of ways you can make your outreach materials more engaging and interesting. Donors will be more inclined to interact with your messages if they’re unique, unexpected, or fun. 

For example, perhaps you include cute stickers or magnets along with your direct mail materials or create a mockumentary-style social media promo video. The more creative and entertaining your marketing materials are, the more likely supporters will engage with them rather than scrolling right past. 

Make the Most of Your Nonprofit Marketing Channels

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how to apply a data-driven, digital, and integrated approach to your marketing strategy so you attract more donors and raise more funds.

3. Personalize donor outreach.

Let’s say you walk to your mailbox one day and open it to find a letter from a nonprofit organization that you contributed to several times in the past. You eagerly open the note, just to see that it starts with “Dear Donor.” You’re a little disappointed because you distinctly remember submitting your full name along with the rest of your payment information. 

Personalized messages are much more compelling than generic communications that start with “Dear Donor” or “Dear Supporter.” Use a nonprofit CRM, like Keela, to identify donors’ preferred names and use them in your marketing messages. 

You can use Keela to identify donors’ history with your organization. For instance, you can find out their previous giving history or volunteer involvement. By including references to donors’ history with your organization in your outreach materials, you prove to them that you see them as individuals and value their particular contributions. 

Send Personalized, Engaging Emails using Keela

Get a glimpse of how Keela’s suite of email marketing tools can help your nonprofit to build and send engaging emails to your donors and supporters.

4. Vary your messaging.

You’ll sound like a broken record if you only reach out to supporters when you’re looking for a fundraising boost. Plus, your audience members will start to feel like ATMs rather than valued members of your organization. 

By varying your outreach content to include more opportunities than just fundraising, you can keep supporters interested and strengthen their connection with your cause.

Send your supporters information about the following opportunities: 

  • Volunteering: Volunteering is a great way to give donors hands-on experience with your mission, strengthening their personal ties to your cause. 
  • Matching gifts: Matching gifts allow donors to maximize the impact of their singular donations. In matching gift programs, corporations pledge to match donations that their employees make to eligible nonprofits. These programs are intriguing to donors because they can make the most of their support without having to donate more themselves. 
  • Advocacy: Give donors an outlet to channel their passion by sharing information on advocacy opportunities. These could include letter-writing campaigns, phone banking, social media conversations, and other forms of support. 

Donors will appreciate having a multitude of ways to get involved beyond just donating. And they are more likely to invite a friend to join them at a volunteering or advocacy opportunity, which can expand the size of your audience. 

5. Craft a dedicated plan for high-volume fundraising periods. 

As a nonprofit professional, you know that certain times of the year are more popular than others when it comes to fundraising, such as the end of the year. Your organization may also host a major fundraising event at the same time each year that generates a higher level of enthusiasm. 

To prepare for these intense fundraising periods, craft a tailored communication plan to make the most of the excitement and engagement. 

There are plenty of online resources you can use, such as comprehensive fundraising plan templates. Use these resources to:

  • Set goals relating to what you hope to achieve throughout your targeted fundraising period. Besides just fundraising goals, you can also establish targets for how many first-time or repeat donors you’d like to engage. 
  • Establish a timeline for reaching out to donors and promoting your fundraising push.
  • Craft a communication strategy that builds momentum leading up to the final day of your fundraising initiative. Centralize your biggest communication push in the days leading up to the event.

While you should seek to optimize your communications strategy all year round, it’s especially important to take a strategic approach to major fundraising periods. Since these are your biggest fundraising pushes throughout the year, it’s worth it to devote more planning time to crafting a specific communications cadence for these initiatives. 

See How Nonprofits Use Keela to Raise 4x More!

Get a glimpse of how Keela’s donor management system can help you develop better relationships, retain donors and raise more for your cause.

An effective donor communications cadence respects donors’ time, offers multiple ways to get involved, and speaks to donors as people and not just as funding sources. Be sure to incorporate these tips into a formal stewardship plan with a communications calendar to guide your outreach.

About the Author: 
Sandra Davis

Founder and President, Sandra Davis leads Donorly with 30 years of fundraising experience and leadership. Sandra has consulted on numerous capital campaigns, led strategic planning and feasibility study efforts, and managed board development and recruitment efforts, planned giving, special events, and annual giving programs. Under her leadership, Donorly has grown to support the fundraising efforts of over 75 clients to date.