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Trust and feeling valued are key components of any relationship. And this is especially true when it comes to the relationship between charities and their donors.

Just letting your donors know that they've helped your charity with their donation doesn't go far enough. Donors want to feel a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment when they give. They want their relationship with your charity to be meaningful.

So, how do you go about building a meaningful connection with your donors? Here are some of our favourite techniques.


Let them know the impact of their support

A truly happy and engaged donor is one who feels they are making a difference. Reassuring your supporters that they are doing something that matters and that their money is going to the right place requires two things: always doing what you say you’re going to do before they donate and clearly communicating your projects and achievements.

One of the hardest things to achieve is to make the donor feel connected. The temptation for a lot of charities is to write themselves into the story e.g. “your donation helped us to…” and so on. It's important to remember that the donor is the hero. This is most effective when you focus on the difference it has made to a specific person (rather than a faceless group) through a compelling case study and testimonial to clearly demonstrate the impact of even a small donation. To create a great donor experience, you need to identify what impact means to your different donor segments. This may differ depending on the size of the donation and the individual’s motivations for giving.


Speak to them as individuals

A key component to building a relationship with someone is communicating with them on a personal level. And your donor communications should do just that. A common mistake is to just say ‘we’ this and ‘us’ that, but it’s important to make sure that you’re using the word ‘you’ in your communications so the donor feels reminded of the important part they are playing. Personalising communications is also essential so they don’t just feel like one of many and to cultivate the relationship to encourage continued support.

The possibilities of personalising your donor communications become endless when combined with clever tech. The British Heart Foundation ran an innovative campaign, based around the London to Brighton bike ride, which used information from JustGiving public profile data to create personalised videos for each fundraiser. This resulted in a 14% increase in donations. For those on more meagre budgets, a shout out on social to thank a donor personally for their support, cheer on fundraising efforts or mark a giving anniversary are also effective ways of building on donor relationships.


Regular communication

You should communicate with your donors regularly, and not just when you need them. Getting in touch with your donors only when you’re looking for fundraising is something they’ll see right through and is likely to make them feel used or undervalued.

It’s important to make sure that your donors feel involved in your cause, and you can achieve this by communicating with them at every stage of the story. This helps to keep them emotionally engaged and also makes sure that they understand the bigger picture of what your charity is looking to achieve.

We recently helped the Trussell Trust do this by working with them to create a report which conveyed the results of their September food bank survey back to the entire food bank community. This report explained what food banks have been up to for the past year, their plans for the future, and what they value most about being a part of the Trussell Trust. This was a great way of simply keeping their audience up to date with their mission, without asking for anything in return.

Trussell Trust foodbank survey report

An automated email series makes this a less onerous task by sending an email when a donor completes a particular action. Listen to your donors for how often they would like to be contacted and by what methods. Some of your donors will want you to share every success, and others will be content with an annual update.


Consider the changing landscape

The landscape has changed significantly since the pandemic. And it’s now more important than ever to embrace new technologies to expand your reach beyond your existing donors. Failing to do this could mean getting left behind.

The most important thing to do is make donating easy and to make your feedback responsive. This can be achieved through, for example, a text to donate function and including chatbots or a live chat feature on your website.


Going beyond thank you

Results published last year from a survey by The GOOD Agency and YouGov into people's giving habits revealed the public think charities are too focused on making money and are always asking for “more”.

In response to the findings, GOOD Agency stated that “charities need to communicate their humanity and influence. Otherwise, they risk being viewed as a money-making machine, a 'bottomless pit'. This communication is crucial as they compete for donors’ attention, time and money.

So, in your donor communications it is more vital than ever to be fully transparent about where donations are being spent and how donors are supporting beneficiaries with a hand up, not a handout.


If you’re looking for relationship marketing support to build more meaningful connections with your database of donors, get in touch with a member of our team today.

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