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Your nonprofit’s success is built on connections. When they feel closely connected to your mission, staff members are more inspired to do their best, beneficiaries are more likely to engage in your programs, and donors are more compelled to contribute to your cause. However, to nurture these meaningful relationships, you need to make each individual feel personally valued by your organization.

One essential strategy for donor stewardship and retention is personalized communications. By tailoring your messaging to resonate with each recipient’s interests, priorities, and history with your nonprofit, you can make them feel like a real partner in your social impact.

In this guide, we’ll share five tips you can apply to personalize your communications to donors and secure their lasting support.

1. Learn about your donors.

Before you can start producing and sending content that will appeal to your donors, you first need to find out exactly what matters to them. There are several tools you can use to do so:

  • Donation page. Using a donation app that integrates with your constituent relationship management platform (CRM), you can customize your donation form to collect relevant details from donors like their location and employer. Then, on your confirmation page, make it easy for donors to opt into additional communications from your nonprofit by adding an email newsletter sign-up option and including social sharing buttons.
  • Surveys. To learn more about donors’ interests and preferences, send them surveys that ask about their donation experience, their connection to your cause, which giving options appeal to them most, what types of events they’d like to attend, the top communication channels they prefer, and more.
  • Polls. Whether you’re trying to promote audience interaction during a virtual event or engage your social media community, polls provide a quick and easy way to collect your donors’ opinions on a topic. While you can log individual survey responses in your donor profiles, polls can provide a more general overview of what matters to your donor base as a whole.

If you notice any gaps in your donor database, consider conducting a data append to pull accurate, up-to-date information from outside sources. Commonly, appending services can provide you with phone numbers, email addresses, and demographic details.

2. Create donor segments.

Once you have an in-depth understanding of your donor base, separate your audience into segments so you can create messages that resonate with each group. Some common ways to do so include grouping by:

  • Type of donor, including first-time, recurring, planned, and major.
  • Interests, such as animals, reading, nature, or getting active.
  • Location, such as whether they’re in your general area and can attend your in-person events or are located internationally.
  • Additional involvement, including volunteering, advocacy participation, and event attendance.

According to Jackson River, your fundraising platform should come with tools for automating personalized communications to your donors based on these segments. For instance, you should be able to automatically upgrade donors from one-time to recurring donors and suggest increased gift amounts based on past giving history. With the right tools at your disposal, you can give each donor segment the attention it needs without increasing your staff’s workload.

3. Respect communication preferences.

Your donors have varying preferences when it comes to how often they want to hear from your nonprofit and through which channels. For example, a Gen X donor might be happy to receive weekly email updates on your programs, while a Gen Z donor might be much more interested in interacting with your nonprofit on social media.

Each communication channel presents its own opportunities for engaging donors:

  • Email. Send prompt thank-you messages, share impact stories, promote recent blog posts, and encourage event registrations.
  • Social media. Create social media groups, host live Q&A sessions, share testimonials, and invite donors to start birthday fundraisers on your nonprofit’s behalf.
  • Text messaging. Enable giving through text-to-give, send urgent appeals, coordinate volunteers, and share event reminders.
  • Direct mail. Send handwritten thank-you cards, add QR codes that link to your website pages, provide a printed annual report, and re-engage lapsed donors.

48% of donors report that regular email communications are most likely to keep them engaged and inspire repeat donations, followed by social media (18%), print (16%), and phone calls (6%). Note which channels elicit the most responses from your donors, and adjust your strategies accordingly.

4. Promote tailored engagement opportunities.

There are many ways in which donors can contribute to your nonprofit. However, depending on each donor’s giving capacity, available time, and preferences, some opportunities will be more suitable than others. Use the data in your donor profiles to reach out with tailored engagement opportunities that they’re most likely to be receptive to, such as:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. Tap into the power of your donors’ personal networks by enlisting them as peer-to-peer fundraisers. For example, you might host a cleanup of your local park and have participants collect pledges from their friends and family based on the number of trash bags they fill up.
  • Volunteering. Many donors—especially those from younger generations—might be more willing and capable of contributing their time to your nonprofit. If you know of particular skills or interests they have, such as graphic design or social media marketing, consider promoting these roles to them.
  • Advocacy. An easy way for donors to stay involved with your nonprofit is to participate in your advocacy activities. They can reach out to elected officials, sign petitions, and share relevant information with their social media networks.

Plus, if you know your donors work for companies with matching gift programs, you can send dedicated emails and text messages encouraging them to check their eligibility and submit a match request. Chances are, your donors will be thrilled to find out that they can double the impact of their donations, but they may not be aware of the opportunity.

5. Provide specific updates and recognition.

Regardless of how they support your nonprofit, your donors want to be a part of your impact on the community. By following up with updates and recognition specific to their contributions, you can make them feel like meaningful participants in your mission.

NXUnite by Nexus Marketing’s donor recognition guide shares several compelling ways you can make your donors feel individually valued, including:

  • Personalized eCards
  • Appreciation events
  • Social media shoutouts
  • Thank-you videos
  • Branded merchandise gifts

Let’s say you run a marine conservation nonprofit with several breeding and rehabilitation programs for endangered ocean species. For donors who have consistently made recurring gifts to support your sea turtle rehabilitation program, you might share an update that says, “Thanks to your generous monthly donations, we’ve been able to treat and release 16 of our sea turtles that have washed up on local beaches over the past year—a record number for us!”

As you continue to communicate with your donors, track metrics such as your email open rate, conversion rates by channel, and social media engagement to identify where your strategies are working and areas where you can improve.

By maintaining a clean database and staying on top of your donors’ shifting needs, priorities, and interests, you can send personalized communications that nurture lasting relationships and inspire a long-term commitment to your cause.

Kelly Parrett

Kelly Parrett

As an English Literature major turned marketer, Kelly is passionate about thoughtful and impactful storytelling. With a background in B2B marketing, SEO, and journalism, Kelly enjoys applying her written and editorial skills to her role at AlumniFinder.