Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Keep Talking: Communicating with Your Donors

Maintaining positive contact with donors throughout the year is an essential part of your fundraising program. Here are a few suggestions for you as you navigate these challenging times using today's complex and diverse technology:
  • Communicate good news in a timely fashion. Don't hold off on good news until it's time for your regular newsletter. If something great happens, let people know right away using email and press releases - this could include an award, an exciting new program, or simply a story that lets people know good things are happening to the people you serve.
  • Communicate bad news, too. Many of you may have hesitated to let your donors know how this economic downturn is affecting your agency - but if we truly regard donors as investors and partners, then we'll also be willing to communicate bad news. Let them know if you've had to layoff staff or cut back on programs. Better that they find out directly and accurately from you than secondhand; plus you'll find donors are both sympathetic and much more willing to help if they're not surprised.

  • Let them know all the ways they can support your agency. Offer a variety of opportunities for your donors to participate. Ask if they'll join your Advisory Board. Invite them to a volunteer work day. Solicit their thoughts and suggestions about your programs directly by phone or through surveys. They may not be able to help, but they will be pleased that you asked - and they will feel more connected to your agency.

  • Let donors know they are your investors and partners. Ultimately, your organization will become healthier and more sustainable when your donors move from viewing their giving as an annual transaction to seeing their investment as an ongoing commitment and opportunity to participate in furthering your mission.

  • Use all of your communication tools strategically. There are so many ways to communicate these days: your website, email, Facebook, newsletters, press releases, phone calls, letters. Make sure your website is easily navigable, with up-to-date graphics and great visuals. Use email for weekly newsletters plus reminders about upcoming events and news announcements; use Facebook to try to spread the word to folks with event evites, good videos, and photographs with donors tagged. But be sure to still use the old-fashioned, more personal methods - letters and phone calls - most especially when thanking people for their contributions of time and/or money.

  • Whatever your message, frame it in gratitude. Preface every communication with continued thanks to your donors for their investment in your work. And make sure your appreciation is specific to their gift and its impact. Above all, remember that fundraising is about building relationships, and expressing appreciation is an essential element. You can never thank people enough!