As a nonprofit administrator, finding effective ways to improve and sustain your relationships with your donors and volunteers is one of the only ways you can guarantee their continued support in the future.

You can start to improve your supporter engagement by implementing these six types of communication:

  1. Segmented
  2. Personalized
  3. Timely
  4. Updated
  5. Goal-oriented
  6. Entertaining

Segmented

Segmented communication is smart communication.  By separating your supporters into different segments or “buckets,” you’re better equipped to tailor your messaging to them by their history of engagement (giving, volunteering, fundraising, etc.) with your organization.

You might want to segment larger donors from smaller ones, your one-time donors from recurring, and certainly your new volunteers from the dedicated and long-term.

The possibilities are endless, and although not all your messages will need to be tailored to different segments, a good number of them should be. This is especially true if you have a wide range of supporters that span over several years of involvement.

 Personalized

Address supporters by their first name and mention something personal that they did for your nonprofit (i.e., what campaign they donated to or event they volunteered for).  One little personal acknowledgment that shows that your message is meant exclusively for them can go a long way.

For Example:  When/if sending out your year-end appeal by direct mail or email/newsletter, add a “P.S.” message that states something personal about each supporter.  If you know that a donor works for a company that does a service for your organization, for instance, you could include something to the effect of “Thank you for all the work you do at X company.”.  For a direct mail appeal, you could write the personal message by hand on the side of the printed letter.

The bottom line:  People (typically) don’t like to feel generalized or grouped with a bunch of people they’ve never even met.  For the most part, we like to feel special and appreciated on an individual level.  Again, not all messages need to be segmented and personalized to this extent, but those that hold the most weight (like your year-end appeal) should be if you want to see a positive response.

 Timely

Some communications do, in fact, have an expiration date.  Such as your “thank you” messages following a donation.  It doesn’t have to be immediate, but if you send it weeks or months later, they may forget what you’re talking about or simply be unimpressed with your timing.

Your communication leading up to a big event or campaign should also begin earlier rather than later.  Just as soon as you know about it, share it, and then remind your supporters as the event date gets closer.

It’s one thing if there’s a lack of interest, but it should never be the case that your supporters missed out because they weren’t aware of it happening.

 Updated

Sending outdated information about your organizational efforts or anything else can leave a negative impression about the level of effort you’re putting into your outreach strategy.  Similarly, if your preferred email server sends messages that look outdated and uninteresting, how do you think that makes your organization look?

No matter how old your nonprofit is, a good number of your supporters may expect your operations to be up to date.  With things that are affordable, such as an email server, there’s no excuse not to update to something that provides a better communication experience for you and your contacts.

 Goal-Oriented

What’s the point of your message?  Don’t be so subtle that your end goal isn’t clear.  If the primary purpose of your message is to inspire donations, then write a compelling story of how donations have helped your cause, include a photo from your organization, and then end your message with a call to action that describes where their monetary gift will go.

For Example:  “Your generosity has allowed us to provide a safe home for our shelter dogs, Jax and Joe [insert a cute picture of them together].  To help us continue to provide loving homes to animals, please consider giving a gift and sharing this message with others who love animals as much as you do.  Thank you.”

The bottom line:  When we open emails, we look for the goal of the email (What does this person want from me?).  Then, we proceed to look for evidence of why we should give the sender what they’re asking for (How would fulfilling this request make me feel about myself?  Am I going to make a difference?  Is this something I care about and value?).  Make your purpose clear and provide reasons as to why this is essentially their goal, too.

 Entertaining

Have fun with your communication strategy!  Think about how your emails can brighten someone’s day instead of purely how many people will donate or engage with you because of them.  Even if that one email doesn’t entice action, it will carry the potential to leave a positive impression that could influence their decision to make a gift or volunteer in the future.

Tell a story that is hopeful and inspiring about your nonprofit operations.  Don’t make it a complete downer, leaving your readers feeling helpless to make a difference.  Make them feel like they already have made a difference and that they can continue to do so!

Use actual names and photos of people or animals your supporters have helped.  Add a link to a fun event or an exclusive invitation for coffee or lunch. Show that you value your supporters by making their happiness one of the goals of your communication strategy.

Then, watch the results!

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