Donor Cultivation: 5 Tips for Maintaining Relationships

Community relationships are one of the most important aspects of sustaining your nonprofit. Not only do supporters raise awareness about your cause, but they also help you build your revenue stream. You might think that your donor outreach strategy should be focused on attracting new donors but, actually, cultivating your relationships with current donors is more cost effective and better for long-term sustainability. 

Imagine who your ideal long-term supporter might be: this person is probably passionate about your cause, spreads the word about your nonprofit, regularly donates, and gets involved when they can. If you have found this type of donor, hold onto them! You want to nurture a meaningful relationship in order to maintain their support.

So how can you hang onto these ideal donors? Here are 5 ways to cultivate your connection with your supporters to build sustainable relationships: 

  1. Personalize communication
  2. Extend personal invitations to events and fundraisers
  3. Use multiple communication channels 
  4. Say thank you in a variety of ways 
  5. Offer multiple ways to get involved 

Strengthening your current connections is a crucial step for your nonprofit’s long-term durability and for smarter fundraising. There are lots of long-term benefits to maintaining your current relationships, including growing your network and establishing recurring donations. 

1. Personalize communication. 

Personalization is a very effective way to make supporters feel acknowledged by your organization. Simply addressing your donor by their name or sending information that is particularly relevant to them can go a long way. Although maintaining hundreds or thousands of different donor relationships simultaneously might seem overwhelming for growing nonprofits, donor databases can help you stay organized. Explore Regpack’s complete guide to donor management software to learn more about this type of platform.

Let’s a take a look at the 2 main personalization strategies that you can use in your outreach materials: 

Personalization

You’ve likely received some sort of personalized communication, whether in the mail, in your inbox, or on your phone. For your purposes, personalization can be anything that recognizes the donor as an individual. In many cases, this means addressing the donor by name when sending them any new communications.

There are several benefits to taking the time to personalize your materials: it can help promote donor loyalty, increase gifts, and encourage your supporters to get more involved. 

Need some ideas to get you started? Try these: 

  • A handwritten thank you letter
  • Using your donor’s name in emails 
  • Giving your supporters shoutouts on social media 
  • Specifying your donor’s contribution in your next communication 

This type of acknowledgement can help your donor feel valued. Your expressions of appreciation will show supporters that they are an important part of driving your mission forward.

Segmentation

The second personalization strategy is called segmentation, a process in which you sort donors into discrete groups based on various engagement or demographic characteristics. The ultimate purpose of segmentation is to help you design fundraising materials targeted towards a specific group’s interests and giving motivations. For example, if you segment your donors by age, you can distinguish between your approach to younger and older audiences. 

Organizing your segmentation process by hand, however, would be time-consuming and difficult. Investing in donation management software might greatly assist your segmentation process, so it is worth considering if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Investing in a database or CRM is an important step for growing nonprofits because it drastically simplifies tasks like these while also helping you raise more through deepened relationships and more effective appeals.

2. Extend personal invitations to events and fundraisers. 

Events are a key opportunity to make face-to-face connections with your supporters, which can pave the way towards lasting relationships. Now that we are able to safely return to more in-person activities, many supporters will probably be delighted to attend an event surrounded by other individuals who care about a cause that they value. 

Virtual events still offer the possibility of connecting with your donors as well — perhaps even more so. The recent rise of virtual programming spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed individuals from different locations to easily gather together. In this way, both in-person and virtual events allow you to forge stronger relationships with your donors. 

As you’re managing large events with potentially hundreds of attendees, it can be easy to lose track of who is engaged and who isn’t. Using event registration technology will help you keep track of your supporters’ previous engagements. Not only will this software allow you to easily promote your event, but, over time, it will give you a clearer sense of each donor’s involvement. 

Through these insights, you can continue to grow your relationships and re-engage disconnected donors. Knowing who is involved and who isn’t can also help you plan future events and fundraisers that might be of interest to your supporters. 

3. Use multiple communication channels. 

Multi-channel fundraising is a great way to ensure that you’re reaching your donors in multiple ways. The more often that you can get your fundraising materials in front of your supporters, the more likely they are to think about your mission and organization. 

If you’re not familiar with multi-channel fundraising, it’s essentially a fundraising strategy in which you use several methods of communication to reach a larger audience. This expanded reach keeps your mission on their minds and can funnel them towards eventually taking your target action, like making a donation. There are all kinds of channels to use, but you could start with these: 

  • Direct mail: Writing direct mail appeals is one way to get right in front of your supporters. It can be especially effective if you segment your audience to specifically target those who’ll be likely to engage with mailed materials.
  • Social media: Social media is an easy and cost-effective way to interact with your donors. Reply to comments, post polls, create interactive content, or host a virtual fundraiser for your followers. There are tons of possibilities!
  • Email: Try sending personalized emails to your supporters. Plus, reaching out to your donors over email is an easy and inexpensive option for you to build a meaningful connection. 

Your organization likely already has a number of these tools and outlets at your disposal, especially today as we rely on virtual fundraising software and marketing platforms in all kinds of new ways. Review your toolkit, and double-check that you’re not letting any valuable communication outlets or opportunities fall by the wayside.

Connecting with donors across multiple channels can help you create as many touch points as possible. The bottom line? The more frequently you can interact with your donors, the better.

4. Say thank you in a variety of ways.

Saying thank you is one of the easiest ways for you to show donors that you appreciate their support. Donors appreciate the acknowledgment, and sending a thank you doesn’t require much work on your end. It’s a win-win and a baseline expectation of most donors these days. 

There are a range of ways to thank your donors that each have their own level of investment. Here are a few ideas that you can try: 

  • Thank you cards: Simple and time-tested, thank you cards can go a long way. Depending on what online payment method that you use, you could send an automated email thank you note as soon as a donor contributes.
  • Giving out merchandise: If you have some extra merchandise lying around, you could host a giveaway either in-person or on social media. Hosting a giveaway on social media might be even more effective because you’ll be able to interact with followers from all kinds of locations. 
  • Donor walls: For donors who contribute larger gifts, you could consider erecting a donor wall or other physical display in their honor. Dedicating a wall in your facility to your donors demonstrates that their contributions make the maintenance of your location possible. 

While it may seem simple, sending some expression of appreciation can make a huge difference in donor engagement and retention. If you’re unsure how your donors might like to be thanked, just ask them! They will likely feel grateful that you’ve asked for their input. 

5. Offer multiple ways to get involved.

If your donor has already contributed to your organization, it means that they care about your cause. But supporters want to do more than donate — they also want to engage with your mission. By creating programming for donors to get more involved, you are showing that you value the supporter as a person, not just as a money tree. 

You could offer all kinds of opportunities for supporter involvement. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Set up a workplace giving program: Try reaching out to committed donors to see if they’d be interested in setting up a workplace giving program at their place of business. If you don’t know where to begin, check out this beginner’s guide from Double the Donation about starting a workplace giving partnership.
  • Plan donor events: A donor mixer would allow your supporters to build relationships not just with you, but also with each other. 
  • Offer volunteer opportunities: If it fits with your organization, consider offering volunteer positions to your donors. These types of programs are also a great way to bring in new helpers who are already invested in your work.
  • Connect digitally: Through your multi-channel fundraising approach, you should build virtual connections with donors. Launching a digital campaign to further these relationships would provide an easy way for donors to engage. 

Through these multiple engagement opportunities, you can ensure that you’re keeping your donors invested in your organization. This level of involvement can help you cultivate donor relationships and prevent your supporters from losing interest in your work.


With these 5 tips, you can continue to cultivate long-term relationships with your donors. Showing your appreciation through thank you notes or communicating with each donor on an individual level can help your donors feel closer to your organization and your cause, which will encourage them to stick around.

Most importantly, remember that maintaining your connection with current donors is vital to sustaining your revenue and your nonprofit.

Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building, and bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.

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