You know how important your donors are to your nonprofit.  But do they know?  Many nonprofits get so busy with other things they don’t adequately maintain relationships with donors.  And many donors that feel underappreciated will quickly become one-time supporters.  If someone has donated to your nonprofit, that’s an incredible thing.  That’s not only an indication that they support your cause, but they’ve identified you as the organization that can effectively use their money to make a change in the world.

When they donate, the relationship is established.  Now you need to focus on maintaining it.

The bottom line is this:

It can be mutually beneficial to both your nonprofit and your donors to establish a meaningful, long-term relationship.

Your nonprofit benefits in that you can develop not only financial backing, but also a source of steady, passionate support for your cause.  And your donors benefit by having an opportunity to help promote a cause they believe in with an organization they value and trust.

But you’re busy and so are your donors.  It can be tough to fit in as much authentic relationship building as you’d like.  That’s where the internet can help.

Before moving forward, it’s important to note that using the internet to maintain relationships is no substitute for genuine human interaction.  Sure, it can help to develop and sustain relationships with your donors, but you shouldn’t scrap all of your in-person relationship building efforts.  As great as a Tweet is, it’s still no replacement for a handshake and a smile.

That said, here are some ways you can use the internet to maintain relationships with donors.

Start With An Individualized Thank You

It doesn’t matter if you’re thanking an individual, a corporation or a foundation, you can use the internet to show your appreciation publicly in a variety of ways, including:

It’s amazing how these fairly simple gestures can go a long way in developing long-term relationships with your donors.  Showing people how much you appreciate them individually can greatly bolster the affinity they feel towards supporting your organization and your cause.

Katya Andersen, Chief Strategy Officer at Network for Good, expressed this sentiment eloquently when she said, “If the only way we react to their gift is with a tax receipt, we’re not only being rude, we’re being disrespectful.”  Let donors know how much their support means to you personally and your organization as a whole.

Give Updates on How Donations Are Spent

Donors want to know where their money is going.  You can (and should) share this information in a variety of ways to reach as many donors as possible.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Put specifics as to how donations are being spent in an email blast
  • Post donation details on Facebook and Twitter
  • Update relevant information on your website
  • Post on your blog
  • Send a personalized email directly from a staff member saying what a donation has enabled your organization to do

The key here is to get specific.  Make sure donors know the impact a specific amount of money can have in your community.

Sharing specifics can be hugely beneficial to your nonprofit as you strive to develop relationships with your donors.  In fact, in the Wired Wealthy Report, 33% of respondents said a charity telling them how their donation was being spent would make them “a lot more likely to give again.”

Additionally, sharing the way you’re spending donor money also helps you appear more transparent, which can positively influence the likelihood that donors will support you in the future.

On the flipside, withholding specifics on how you spend donations can negatively impact a donor’s willingness to continue their support.  A study on young donors (under age 35) found that 77% said they’d be somewhat or very likely to stop giving to a nonprofit if they “didn’t know how the donation was making an impact.”

If donors know what impact their donation is having, they’re far more likely to continue providing financial support in the future.

Ask Your Donors Questions

Your donors are presumably passionate about your cause and likely have ideas that could be beneficial to your nonprofit.  Use this to your advantage by soliciting their feedback.  Ask for input on upcoming events or opportunities donors may be interested in.  Ask one question on Facebook.  Ask another on Twitter.

Asking questions of donors is well suited for social media since it’s entirely up to your followers to decide if they’d like to respond with feedback.  Social media can also be less invasive than sending an email.  Some donors will value the opportunity to give their feedback.  Your willingness to reach out and implement suggestions can help to make donors feel more connected to your organization on an ongoing basis.  If you do ask for feedback, it’s important to follow up with donors once a decision has been made.  Let your donors know that you’re listening and you value their input enough to keep them informed.

Respond to Donors on Twitter

Get proactive in the way you use Twitter.  Follow your donors and organize them into a Twitter list.  Keep an eye on their Tweets and, when appropriate, feel free to respond.  This can be an easy way to have genuine conversations on a regular basis with those of your donors who are active on Twitter.

Ask Donors To Write Blog Posts

Your donors have already decided your nonprofit is doing something worth supporting.  Provide them with an opportunity to share their views by guest writing a post for your blog.  Some potential topics a donor could cover include:

  • Why they decided to give to your nonprofit in the first place
  • A particular story of an interaction they’ve had with your nonprofit
  • Their favorite event they’ve attended
  • What makes your nonprofit different in their eyes
  • A way they’ve personally been impacted by your nonprofit

Not only will this hopefully mean a lot to your donor, but there’s also a good chance they’ll forward a link on to friends and colleagues, thus creating an opportunity for you to broaden your reach.  Plus, their post will likely resonate with other donors and potential donors.  You probably share your perspective a lot.  Give your supporters a chance to share theirs.

Share Photos on Facebook

Compelling photos can help personalize the impact your nonprofit is having in the community.  When you’re publishing such photos, consider using captions to thank your donors.

Maybe the support of a few donors enabled you to do something worth sharing (like distributing clothing to those in need or providing books to a local school).  Whatever the case, mention your appreciation to those donors when you share your photos.

Make sure you’re not only thanking donors when they give, but are also doing so when their support provides a tangible impact in the community.

Share Videos of the Impact

In some cases, video may provide an opportunity for you to share with donors the impact they’re having in the world.  For instance, if you’re a nonprofit working to provide educational materials to rural African schools, there’s a good chance many of your donors will never meet the children impacted by your efforts.  The onus is on you to give your donors a chance to see the impact in the most vivid way you possibly can.

Get a video camera and take it with you into the field.  Film your team distributing materials.  Show the classrooms before and after.  Showcase the kids – the people actually benefitting from the kindness of your donors.  Have the kids and teachers talk about the impact these materials are having.

Put in a little time, edit the video a bit, and share it on YouTube.  Link to it all over the place.  Send it out to your donors specifically.  You need to share the impact donors are having in the most compelling way you can.  It’s not only what many of your donors want, but it’s also what they deserve for supporting you and your cause.

Make Personalized Thank You Videos

Another direction you can potentially go with video is to make personal thank you videos for individuals or groups of donors.  For inspiration, check out the videos charity: water made to thank donors in honor of their fifth birthday.

Host a Twitter Chat

If you’ve developed a fairly active following on Twitter, a Twitter chat could be a great way for you to engage your audience and help deepen relationships you’ve already established.  A chat is when a group of Twitter users come together at a specified time to discuss a certain issue.  It’s an opportunity for you to talk with but also listen to your followers.

You could use a Twitter chat to discuss a variety of topics, including but not at all limited to:

  • What’s your nonprofit doing well?  What could your nonprofit improve?
  • How are your supporters working to further a certain cause in their everyday lives?
  • What would followers like to see at an upcoming event?
  • What volunteer opportunities would most interest your supporters?
  • What topics would supporters like to see covered on your blog?

For more details on hosting a Twitter chat of your own, check out HubSpot’s article 8 Steps to Hosting a Successful TweetChat.

Donors Are Not ATMs

Some of these methods may work well for you.  Others may not be a good fit for your nonprofit.  Regardless of what you decide to do, you need to adequately show your appreciation to your donors both when they give and on an ongoing basis.

Author Tom Ahern said it well:

“Donors aren’t ATM machines.  I don’t think successful fundraising is about keeping the staff paid and the lights burning.  It’s far more about giving your donors a vivid sense that they’re changing the world.”

You and your donors are changing the world.  It’s up to you to make sure they not only know that, but also feel that on a regular basis.


Millennial Donors Report 2011 – Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates

Donor Retention and Loyalty – Study Fundraising

Understanding Donors’ Motivations 2009 – The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

How to Say Thanks – and Surprise and Delight Your Supporters – Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog

Before Putting Pen to Paper, Understand Your Donors – On Philanthropy