With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonprofits made the choice to keep their staff safe and have their teams work from home. Today, working from home remains the new normal for many professionals, potentially even your own nonprofit’s staff. 

As your nonprofit continues transitioning out of crisis mode, you may be searching for new growth strategies that are compatible with a remote work environment. This new normal brings both unique challenges and benefits when it comes to communicating with donors—many of whom might also be interested in connecting with your nonprofit from their homes. 

While working from home, your nonprofit’s technology will be more important than ever for maintaining strong donor relationships. To help your nonprofit leverage your communication tools while your team works remotely, this article will cover how to:

With the right tools and techniques, your work-from-home strategy for donor communications has the potential to even outperform your in-office approach. Plus, as many supporters have come to appreciate the option to connect remotely, your nonprofit will likely need to create a long-lasting strategy for getting in touch with these donors. 

Use Innovative Tools to Simplify Workflows

When your office and living environments are combined, distractions can impact your team’s productivity. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and software solutions built specifically for nonprofits that give teams the flexibility needed for an at home work environment. 

Salsa’s online fundraising strategies guide recommends several software solutions nonprofit teams can use to better connect with each other and their donors. These include tools such as CRMs with supporter engagement and automation capabilities, volunteer management tools, and unique fundraising software. 

With the right tech solutions in place, you can make sure nothing falls through the cracks even when working from home. Here are a few tips you can use to help your team enhance internal processes at your nonprofit:

Leverage automated messaging

Coordinating messages is essential for guiding supporters through their donor journey. You can create a well-paced outreach schedule and ensure you never miss an engagement opportunity by using automated messages. 

Decide what actions should trigger an automated message. For example, many nonprofits automatically send supporters messages when they:

  • Donate
  • Sign up for your newsletter
  • Sign up for an event
  • Buy something from your store
  • Sign up to volunteer

For each of these actions, consider establishing an email drip campaign, which enables your nonprofit to schedule a number of emails to be sent on a regular basis after a specific action and to stop after another action. 

For example, if you register that a new supporter has made their first donation, you might send them a thank you message confirming their donation, then follow it up with a “welcome” email drip stream. Then, your next message might highlight content on your blog or social media to help them learn more about your cause. After a few more messages, you could send out another request for a donation. If they complete that donation, your next email drip stream would be triggered.

Use internal notifications

When your team is physically disconnected, you must rely on communication tools more than ever to accomplish goals. Establish communication practices, such as tagging messages with priority levels, so team members can quickly sort through their notifications and act accordingly. 

Additionally, you can consider investing in internal communication software. With the right software, you can set up intelligent notifications that help your team to work more efficiently. 

Smart notifications can alert the right person at the right time to handle a particular task.

Whether you have a series of team members involved in an internal workflow or need to initiate an action based on an outside inquiry or donation, you won’t miss a beat.

Manage team productivity

While many organizations have been pleasantly surprised by their teams’ productivity levels while working from home, there’s always room for additional tweaks. Reduced efficiency cannot only slow down your nonprofit’s progress on your mission, but it can potentially also result in delayed communication with donors, consequently impacting your organization’s ability to form connections with supporters. 

Make sure you have adequate software in place for project management, communication, and any other needs specific to your nonprofit. Re:charity’s guide to working from home for nonprofits shares a few tips your organization can have your team implement when working remotely:

  • Create a dedicated workspace. If your nonprofit plans to have team members work from home regularly, encourage them to set up a semi-permanent workspace. This workplace should be clutter and distraction free, so even when they’re at home, your staff still has a space where they can focus on getting work done. 
  • Set a routine. Even when your staff isn’t physically at work, they’re still at work. Establish when work begins and ends, and consider creating a time tracking system. Doing so will help you monitor what is being worked on and when, while also helping team members better manage their own schedules. 
  • Use video calls. Face-to-face connections matter, and with modern video conferencing tools, your team can still connect with video calls. Plus, video calls encourage everyone to pay attention, which can increase participation and create an environment similar to in-person meetings. 

Be sure to collect feedback from your team about potential productivity blockers and opportunities to adjust your work-from-home system. For example, team members who will be regularly communicating with donors may need more advanced video conferencing tools than those who primarily handle administrative tasks. 

Use Data to Drive Effective Communication

Donor data can help inform your marketing efforts, allowing your team to make strategic decisions about how to communicate with donors. While your staff and your donors might be working from home, the same principles for donor communication still apply and integrating data-driven strategies can help your messages stand out from the rest of your donors’ inbox. 

To make better use of your data and increase your team’s efficiency, consider using “smart” donor engagement tools. Applying a “smart” approach to donor communications involves leveraging the data you already have in your donor management system, while also seeking new insights.

Here are three key ways your nonprofit’s marketing team can collect and use data:

Personalize communications

When crafting your email marketing campaigns, incorporate donor information to add a personal touch. Of course, you should address your emails to each donor by name as a first step, but your personalization efforts can go further than that. 

Incorporating more specific information that ties your donor to your mission can be a great way to establish a strong connection, even from a distance. The data points you use will depend on your cause and where the supporter is in their donor journey. Here are a few potential personalization details you can add to your messages:

  • Recent volunteer data. Some of your donors might also volunteer with your nonprofit. If they do, reach out to them to thank them for both with their donation amount and hours volunteered. 
  • Event attendance. Has a donor attended any of your events recently? If so, thank them for their attendance and invite them to your upcoming event. 
  • Information about the campaign they supported. If a supporter contributed to a specific fundraising campaign or initiative, acknowledge that and give them an update on its progress. This personalization method is especially popular with animal shelters who will often share the names of specific pets who were helped by a donor’s support. 

You can also incorporate historical giving data to create a more targeted ask and improve fundraising success. For example, if a donor historically gives $100 annually, you could ask them to consider giving $10 monthly instead, raising their total amount contributed but without asking for a donation that is out of their budget. 

Your nonprofit’s CRM will be your primary tool for recording all of these personal details and using them in your outreach. Create donor profiles for each of your supporters so you can track where all of your supporters are in their donor journeys and send them tailored messages that can move them one step closer to making a donation. 

Optimize outreach

Both the qualitative and quantitative data you have collected about your supporters can be used to inform your future communications plans. If your nonprofit uses smart engagement technology, consider putting it to use to help inform what times of day you reach out to donors, which communication channels you use to get in touch, and what content you include in each message.

Data points like age, donor type, gift type, and other information can be used to segment your donors into email lists that you can then optimize your approach for. For example, try segmenting your donors by engagement level so you can focus on encouraging first-time donors to jumpstart their initial engagement without bombarding your longtime supporters.

If you’re looking to optimize outreach further, gather additional information through A/B testing to see what performs well, or survey your supporters to solicit direct feedback about their preferred communication platforms and engagement methods.

Experiment with new trends

If you want to expand your current marketing strategy, try experimenting with new communication trends. For example, you could try sending a plain text email, using text messaging, or incorporating more video content into your outreach. 

There’s a huge variety of options available to get creative with. To determine what strategy makes the most sense for your nonprofit, consider factors such as:

  • Supporter demographics. Conduct research to align your efforts with the platforms your supporters are using. For example, if your audience includes a young Gen Z crowd, you could experiment with TikTok, but if you have a lot of older supporters, a plain text email may be more appropriate.
  • Team capacity. Before adopting a new platform, think about the effort it will take to run it. If your team doesn’t have the capacity to maintain a regular presence on a new social media platform, it may make more sense to try a less time-intensive option.
  • Content creation. With any new approach, you’ll want to tweak your messaging to have the appropriate tone and fit the platform’s constraints. But some platforms will involve more legwork than others. Consider whether you can repurpose existing content or if you’ll need to produce new material.
  • Technical capabilities. Does your team have the technical know-how to adjust to a new system effectively? Determine whether you’ll need any training or additional resources to get up and running.
  • Cost. Think about whether you will need to invest in new software to execute your chosen method. If new communication technology isn’t in the budget right now, you’ll want to choose a free platform.

Whatever you choose, be sure you’re keeping an eye on engagement metrics to see how your supporters respond. Keep in mind that any new strategy or software you incorporate into your donor outreach might initially not make up its return on investment as your team familiarizes themselves with it. Set a deadline for when you would like to see returns by that takes this factor into account.

Maintaining strong donor communications when working from home is possible when you have the right tools and strategies on your side. Explore the numerous innovative tools out there specifically for nonprofits, and leverage your data to help your team make strategic decisions about your donor communication efforts. Then, work keeping up communications with remote donors into your overall strategy to help secure these valuable relationships. 

How has your nonprofit been keeping up with donor communications from home? Have any other tips to share? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below.

This post was originally published on 10/28/20 and updated on 7/20/22 with updated tips and the latest details.

About the Author

Craig Grella is a Content Marketer at Salsa Labs, the premier software for growth-focused nonprofits that combines CRM and engagement software with embedded best practices, machine learning, and world-class education and support. In his role, he serves thousands of nonprofits and advocacy organizations across the U.S.

Craig focuses on digital strategy using email marketing, online advertising campaigns, SMS campaigns, CRM management, reporting/analytics for KPIs, and more. He’s also the founder of Think Big Campaigns, a full-service consulting firm that specializes in political consulting, digital organizing, and issue advocacy.