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The Ultimate Donor Engagement Guide + Top Strategies

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Your donors interact with your organization in a variety of ways on a regular basis, and not just by donating. They read your emails, share your advocacy campaigns, attend your volunteer opportunities, and promote your mission to others.

Donor engagement measures all of the things that make up a complete donor profile, beyond just gift size and demographic information. And it can provide some of the most powerful data for fundraisers.

What is donor engagement?

Donor engagement encompasses the ways donors interact with your nonprofit and strategies your organization uses to create stronger ties with its supporters. Donor engagement goes hand in hand with donor retention. The more engaged your donors are, the more likely they are to remain involved with your organization and continue supporting you over the long term.

With a strong donor engagement strategy, you can focus your time and energy on cultivating and retaining the donors you already have, rather than continually reaching out to new donors. This can help save your organization time and money.

Donor engagement signals

There are many signals that show donors’ true level of engagement with your nonprofit organization. Some are signals that donors are becoming disenchanted with your organizations, while others are beacons of what could be a lifelong relationship.

Assess each donor’s:

  • Recency/pattern of giving
  • Years given
  • Donation method (cash, check, or credit card)
  • Recent upgrade or downgrade in donation size
  • Events attended
  • Hours volunteered
  • Stated communication preference
  • Matching gift eligibility
  • Survey responses
  • Website visits
  • Email subscription status
  • Email open rate
  • Email click-through rate
  • Social media following status
  • Social media interactions

Use your donor database to capture and visualize this constituent information, tracking which signals each donor or prospect exhibits. This can help you identify donors who may be at risk for disengagement or those who seem ready to take their involvement to the next level.

For instance, if a donor recently unsubscribed from your email newsletter and hasn’t donated for a few months, you might flag that individual as a lapse risk. On the other hand, if another donor has recently given a thorough survey response and upgraded their annual donation amount to $5,000, you might identify that individual as a potential major donor prospect.

6 benefits of tracking donor engagement

Being aware of donor engagement signals allows fundraisers to take action on an individual level.

By measuring donor engagement, you can:

  • Divide your donor database into meaningful and actionable segments. For instance, you might group donors by the recency of their latest gift or frequency of donations to create more personalized communications for each segment.
  • Create more personalized acknowledgments and solicitations that resonate with donors. This helps differentiate your outreach from other marketing messages donors receive, whether from for-profit businesses or other nonprofits.
  • Identify potential major donors. Using your donor database, you can identify donors with high engagement scores, elevated wealth levels, and a long history of giving — these are your best major gift prospects. You can create tailored stewardship plans to strengthen ties with these supporters.
  • Identify potential volunteers, influencers, and advocates. Those with limited financial means may be able to support you in other ways and continue to increase their lifetime value. They can help spread awareness of your mission to a wider audience and give back with their time instead of or in addition to financial giving.
  • Head off potential lapses. If you see that a certain donor’s engagement rate is low, you can act before attrition sets in. You can create an action plan for re-engaging this individual and showing them why your organization is still worthy of their support.
  • Measure your progress. When you keep track of donor engagement, you can determine patterns, trends, and the most effective strategies for earning greater engagement.

As you can see, tracking donor engagement allows you to monitor potential donor lapses and opportunities to strengthen donor relationships. With this data, you can take an informed approach to creating productive donor engagement strategies.

10 effective donor engagement strategies

Effective donor engagement requires ongoing stewardship and outreach for effective relationship-building.

Keep in mind that donors are interested in multiple aspects of your mission. They want to know about how your organization is using their gifts, the progress made toward your goals, and the variety of projects and programs going on at any given time.

Let’s take a look at specific strategies you can use to foster ongoing donor engagement:

  1. Invite donors to events. Plan a special donor appreciation gala or dinner or invite donors to attend your special annual events, such as your fundraising 5K or auction. 
  2. Encourage donors to volunteer. Invite donors to deepen their involvement in your mission by participating in hands-on volunteer activities. 
  3. Share impact. Tell donors exactly how you plan to use their donations, whether it’s to purchase new supplies for your community garden or help local families rebuild their homes after a disaster. 
  4. Call donors to express your appreciation. A phone call is a personal, unexpected extra touch that makes donors feel valued and acknowledged as individuals. 
  5. Send out surveys asking for donor feedback. Show donors you appreciate them by asking for their opinions on everything from your donation opportunities to your event schedules. Make an effort to incorporate their feedback whenever it makes sense and is possible. 
  6. Reach out via email. Create an email drip campaign that introduces new donors to your organization’s mission. 
  7. Get connected on social media. Connect with donors on LinkedIn, tag them in a Facebook thank-you post, give them a shout-out on Twitter, or follow them on Instagram. 
  8. Engage board members in donor appreciation. Recruit your board members to conduct donor stewardship activities such as calling donors or inviting them to a one-on-one meeting to say thank you. 
  9. Feature major donors in newsletters or press releases. Go above and beyond by highlighting your major donors in your recurring email newsletter or sending out a press release to local news outlets about their generous contributions. 
  10. Feature supporters on a donor wall. A donor wall is a permanent display at your organization’s facilities or headquarters that lists major donors and recognizes them for their generous support. 

Incorporate a variety of outreach tactics to keep donors interested and in the know of your organization’s activities.


Boost your donor engagement with Bloomerang

Bloomerang offers donor management software designed to help nonprofits proactively build donor relationships. Bloomerang’s robust features, from a CRM built specifically for nonprofits to effective marketing and engagement tools, help organizations manage donor relationships and build the groundwork for long-lasting partnerships.

Bloomerang offers a comprehensive giving summary and engagement meter that provides an at-a-glance view of an individual constituent’s engagement level. Every interaction that is inputted into Bloomerang automatically adjusts their engagement level, which is measured in “cold,” “warm,” “hot,” and “on fire!”

This score allows you to understand which donors are most engaged and committed to your cause directly from their profiles, allowing you to capitalize on high engagement and act on potential lapse risks.

Looking for more information on Bloomerang’s donor management tools and donor engagement in general? Review these additional resources:

Upgrade your donor engagement strategy with powerful donor management software from Bloomerang.

Using Bloomerang, you can track donor engagement and improve outreach strategies for greater retention.

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