Helping Nonprofits Raise More Money & Do More Good

Grow donor relations by letting them lead the way.

Developing Donor Relations: 5 Reasons Your Donors Should Be In Charge

The success of your fundraising efforts is due, in no small part, to your focus on donor relations. People need to care about your mission and believe in your process before they give any money. For your marketing and development teams, that means understanding your donors more and more every day.

So your team adopts a suite of software and pours over analytics reports. You use data, industry trends and algorithms to predict what your donors to care about and how to connect with them. It’s a system that worked for marketers in the for-profit world, and you want to emulate it for your nonprofit.

While we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that approach, we do offer an alternative approach. One that takes a lot less guessing. To us, donor-managed relationships make a lot more sense for your fundraising efforts. Here’s why.

How Algorithms Develop Strong Donor Relations

Donor relations are complex. If humans were simple, no organization would ever worry about meeting their quarterly goals. But the truth is, what motivated a person to donate a month ago might not be relevant to their life today. Most of us can’t afford to make big decisions on irrelevant data.

Of course, algorithms and sophisticated software helps with this problem. The right CRM will consider all the known behaviors of your donors and suggest your next best action. You don’t have to spend any extra time trying to decide what the best option is.  But what about the unknown behaviors? Is it safe to ignore the parts of a donors life that you can’t find in your current system?

We don’t think so. So, we created a solution. The Virtuous CRM was built to treat people as humans, not simply data for algorithms. We made it easy for donors to self-identify the more important things in their lives. We took the existing behavioral data you might expect and added more context. Donors can now tell you about their passions, friends, family and communities.

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The Value of Letting Your Donors Lead

Our approach to donor relations isn’t just to give you more data. That wouldn’t be enough to earn your trust. We did everything we could to ensure the data was actionable and lead to real results. Here are just some of the benefits we’ve seen thanks to donor managed relationships.

1. Cultivating Genuine Donor Relationships

We talk about the importance of building a genuine connection with your donors. We believe it’s critical to your fundraising success. Donors are accustomed to feeling like a number in a “target demographic” by most other organizations in their world. Rather than adopting the same behavior and talking at your audience, create a two-way conversation. Don’t assume that you know what’s best or most interesting to them because your data said so.

Instead, use the data to make your best guest, and then let the donor give you the rest of the information. Change the way you approach your donor relations and you’ll start to see a shift in their reactions. Donors who give a small amount every December will slowly become advocates who want to host events in their communities and increase your donations.

This might be a long-term strategy, but it’s the most important investment you can make.

2. Real-Time Updates You Can Trust

If you’ve ever been involved in a digital marketing campaign, you understand how difficult it is to make decisions about what messages connect with your donors. The reports fluctuate at a rate that is difficult to trust until the entire campaign is complete. Nonprofits need to be more agile than that if they want to be effective.

Allowing donors to provide information themselves takes out a significant amount of guess-work for your fundraising teams. As soon as someone enters information about their financial plans or the people in their inner circle, you can act on it. You’re getting information directly from the donor’s account, not look-a-likes. With that kind of clarity, you’ll be able to stay nimble and focused with your decisions.

3. Compete More Efficiently Against Competitors

Automation and new technologies created a fundamental shift in how we all spend our money. Specifically, automation raised the bar for user experience. People expect instant confirmation. They want to see a chat box on your website to know that you’re available for their questions when they need you. Most importantly, they spend their money on companies they know they can trust.

It is a mistake to assume these changes only affect for-profit organizations. When your donors are reading their inbox, or scrolling on social platforms, or sifting through their mail, every business, organization and nonprofit is viewed the same way. They don’t compartmentalize their experience based on industry. If you don’t connect with them—in a way that is personal and customized—they will move on to the content that is. Avoid getting lost in the noise by leveraging relevant data to say something your donors want (and need) to hear about your nonprofit.

4. See Trends Specific to Your Nonprofit

Without personalized data provided by your donors, the only trends you can rely on are ones other companies provide to you. That means you aren’t in control of when you see the data, what the data covers or who is selected to provide the data. Trying to apply other people’s data to your specific nonprofit and your specific donors leaves room for a lot of error. Certainly, your team can interpret the trends and use your historical knowledge to guess what it will mean for your donors in the future. But wouldn’t it be better to create your own reports using trends from your actual donors?

With a CRM that intelligently organizes that data over time, you’ll have that freedom. You can foster connections between first-time donors and the long-standing advocates who live in their community. You can start to understand how giving increase over-time based on the communications you send to a particular donor. With a creative team and personalized data from your CRM, there’s no limit to the number of valuable insights you’ll be able to uncover, without waiting for the next report from an outside source.  

5. Empower Your Donors

Finally, you give your donors a sense of power. By giving them the opportunity to tell you what they care about, you’re signaling that they have a say in the impact your nonprofit makes. They start to believe you when you say they are a necessary part of your mission. A direct connection like that is what increases donor retention over time and cultivates stronger donor relations.

A stronger relationship gives you the leverage you need to ask for bigger donations, or ask for the same donation more frequently. It encourages your donors to show up when you host large events or talk to their friends about the work you’re doing. You earn the ability to ask for more, because the work no longer feels like a donation. Giving feels like contributing to a team that won’t work without them.

See the Difference Donor Managed Relations Can Make for Your Nonprofit

Transforming the way you foster donor relations is not difficult. In fact, it can happen with a single tool. But, it’s important to get your entire team on board first. Check out our Nonprofit CRM Checklist to understand where your team is at, and make goals for where you want to be by the end of the year. Your donors will appreciate the extra effort, we promise.  

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Mckenna Bailey
Mckenna is a writer and strategist who uses empathy and storytelling to connect nonprofits with their most committed donors.

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