We all want our donors to stick with us for the long haul.

Sitting passively in the system however is not enough. Your charity needs to get to know the people giving in a truly meaningful way. Donors are multi-faceted individuals yet share broad habits that your charity must build a picture of. We want to know the causes and projects they like, how much they typically give and how they interact with the charity. Targeted donor engagement is more than extracting generalisations, it’s about gleaning the useful, insightful, and valuable data to tailor your asks, build trust and strengthen your relationship.

Before going forward, your first move is actually to step back and ask some foundational questions:

What does your charity know already?

Do you really know who your donors are?

Each donor that engages with your charity already fits into key demographics and lifestyle brackets that you should know about. Who are they? Where do they live and what do they do? What is the pattern of their donations? Which projects are they passionate about? How much are they happy to be engaged with? What do they expect in terms of comms from your charity? How much and when do they typically donate? Piecing together this puzzle will not only help you understand the people behind the donations, but also give you a clue as to who your charity brand is attracting (and possibly, why too).

Which touchpoints does your charity offer?

From piquing their initial interest to actively engaging them, what are the key touch points your charity offers along the way? Map out the journey a donor takes to understand when and how they learnt of your charity and how they came to initially interacting with you. Though the usual channels may be obvious (Google, Facebook ads, Twitter or word of mouth), think about the service your charity would provide for a curious would-be donor who simply called your charity for a general chat about your work.

Honestly answer what kind of impression a donor would likely walk away with at each of the various touch points on offer. Once these are clearly identified, invest in how to raise the bar of satisfaction at every potential touch point along the way.

How do your donors get to hear from you?

Once you understand how your fundraising and marketing has reached your audience, take a look at how easy your charity makes it for them to donate. Whether it’s swiping on an app, two clicks away from an ad or an attachment on a formal letter, pay attention to how a donor is guided to make that leap from “these guys do great work” to “I’m going to support them right now”.

Identify the roadblocks to swift, confident donating and work to remedy the (real or perceived) deterrents as a priority. Simply setting up a small group of typical donors to have a semi-structured interview about their donation gripes and preferences can often identify surprising blind spots your charity needs to know.

…and how do you keep them once they have?

Once a donor has trusted you with their first show of support, it is essential to maintain regular, thoughtful and compelling communication with them. This is your opportunity to prove they have made a worthy commitment in supporting your charity’s work. What your charity does from now is a critical next phase that can make or break your donor relationship.

Look at how well your donor records are managed and whether you are making constructive use of the data at your disposal. Become a dummy-donor yourself and map out what a new donor receives the very first time they support your work, when a new fundraising campaign is launched or within a typical year. Are donors getting their feedback as often and in the format they prefer? Have you even asked? These are the basics that need to be locked down securely for your donor relationship to flourish meaningfully and for the long haul.

While you do this however…

Draw your team in

The heart of your charity are the people within it. Inspire your team to discuss and be able to clearly identify what state your charity’s donor relationship management is in. Look carefully at your current model and ask yourselves what improvements will have the most impact on the bottom line or what the best routes are to improve the donor experience. There may be trial-and-error involved, but it is all valuable learning. Discuss it, document it and trial it!

Know your resources

With great ideas often come greater reality checks. Every charity will have areas of limitation- whether that’s money, time or even staff. Work within your means for the changes that can be implemented in the most realistic and timely manner. Begin with the areas of greatest urgency, broken down into bite-size goals. Identify the “must haves” and “nice to have” and set your targets accordingly.

Keep going!

Trialling different techniques and strategies for improving donor engagement will inevitably return some “failings”, however the goal of the exercise is in learning, not necessarily just succeeding. All of it is valuable learning for your charity and can be the springboard for further queries and tests you hadn’t originally anticipated. Enter this with an open mind and don’t get hung up on the disappointments. Just be sure to keep a tight record of the plan and different outcomes, not only for posterity but to see the evolution of the project.

Behind the screens, systems and campaigns, donors are the humans bringing your charity’s projects to fruition. Learn, value and actively invest in the relationship with them not only for the benefit of their loyalty or strengthening your brand, but to best deliver the essential projects you are all mutually invested in.

More from the blog


Ramadan Ready: Charity Checklist

As Ramadan approaches, it’s the perfect time to refine your fundraising strategy to make the most of this generous season. In this guide, you’ll find steps and tips to prepare and maximise your efforts during the upcoming Holy month of Ramadan.

Why Charity-Specific CRMs Outperform Generic CRMs?

Why Charity-Specific CRMs Outperform Generic CRMs?

A survey conducted by Charity Digital reports that 22% of charities as not using a CRM. Of those familiar with a CRM’s advantage, only a few understand the difference between a charity-specific and a generic CRM’s functionality.