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Mystery Solved: How to Build a Base of Loyal Nonprofit Supporters

International Pronouns Day

loyal nonprofit supporters

With calendar year-end giving time right around the corner, most nonprofits are gearing up for the major push to bring in year-end donations. If that’s where you are at this point, you may be wondering how you’ll ever pull it off. The following three-step strategy will help you build a strong base of loyal nonprofit supporters and bring in much-needed funds to achieve your year-end goals. 

The first step is measuring your donor statistics to know where you stand. The second is using this information to actively solicit your existing donors. In the final step, you’ll build on the relationships you already have through ongoing donor cultivation and, like all good relationships, nurturing.

Step 1: Know Your Stats: Where Do You Stand?

Knowing some basic statistics about your donors (yes, statistics) will put your development team in the driver’s seat.  Spending the time and money to develop a well-managed database of donor information is well worth the extra effort.  The investment will pay off by enabling your team to draw on the data collected to make informed decisions that yield results.

It’s very useful for nonprofit leaders to revisit their donor base and categorize statistics such as:

  • Average gift size
  • Frequency of donor contact;
  • Rate of repeat donations, including the number of gifts made; 
  • Average number of asks made per donor/per period; and
  • Rate of donor base decline (e.g., donor attrition.)

By identifying each of these numbers, and others that may work well for your particular organization, you can more easily see where you’re on the right track and where your efforts fall short of expectations. This, in turn, will help you decide what steps to take to continue a certain giving trend, or improve donations in different categories. 

Taken together, all of this information gathering will make it that much easier to plan an important phase of donor development: solicitation. 

Step 2: Actively Solicit Your Existing Donors

Drawing on the above statistics and any other metrics you may have, will enable your team to actively solicit your existing donor base with focused communication efforts. If you have a well-managed database which includes prospects capable of making the gifts you need, you can more easily focus your efforts on those prospects.

The data you’ve collected will enable the development team to:

  • Personalize direct mail pieces so they look more authentic;
  • Know where to focus more energy to go after major gifts; and
  • Make phone calls with a personal touch, from a simple “happy birthday” to asking, “How’s your mother feeling these days?” 

I always advise my clients to make a gift range chart part of their calendar year-end efforts. The gift chart will help to calculate the number of donors and prospects needed to reach your goal so that you can determine if it is feasible. Gift charts can be used for any of your fund development goals, including Annual Funds. They are a very useful method for campaigns of various sizes, from very large to as small as $10,000. Having this information will then allow you to invest your expense and time in the most worthwhile strategies. This helps to avoid what I refer to as the “Hope and Pray” method of fundraising planning.       

Your base of loyal nonprofit supporters has the potential to give more if you just ask. And you’ll raise more from your core supporters through repeat gifts if you follow the final step below.

Step 3: Nurture Your Donors to Build Long-term Support

Finally, it’s vital to spend time cultivating and nurturing your donor relationships throughout the year. Strong relationships lead to gift upgrades and help build repeat donors. Your database should include notes on the reason why the donor gave, which greatly helps your team tailor each appeal: 

  • Does a family member have the health condition your mission addresses?  
  • Was the donor’s child helped by one of your programs?  
  • What else do you know about what drives their passion that could be used in an appeal?

You can drive your major donors to give repeatedly by appealing to their emotions and by demonstrating the direct impact of their giving on the lives of someone else. There is always a concern of wearing out your donor welcome. Many of my clients are apprehensive about asking donors to give more than once per year. But I will tell you the same thing I tell them – results have shown that loyal donors will repeatedly give when the right case is presented, and they have been appropriately nurtured as a partner in the organization’s mission.   

If you take the time to put these three steps into place, your number of loyal nonprofit supporters will continue to grow and build upon itself year after year. 

donor love and loyalty

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