5 Ways to Enhance Your Membership Renewal Letter

5 Ways to Enhance Your Membership Renewal Letter

 

For nonprofits with membership programs, retention is everything. No matter how engaging or profitable your membership program is, if you can’t convince members to come back year after year, you’ll never achieve true progress or growth.

Luckily, there’s one oft-overlooked aspect of the member stewardship game that you can leverage to maximize your retention rates and supercharge your membership program. We’re talking about the ever-so-crucial membership renewal letter.

Though you might perceive these pesky communications as necessary evils, there is a way to ensure your renewal letters are more than just a requirement. They’re a way to engage your members and remind them of the value of the membership experience (while asking for a donation in the form of a membership fee).

In fact, if you follow our tips, you might even start to enjoy the renewal process—and more importantly, so will your members!

We’ll help you take your member renewal letters from okay to amazing in just 5 simple steps:

  1. Get personal.
  2. Take your members down memory lane.
  3. Understand the urgency.
  4. Stay gracious.
  5. Don’t forget the details.

Let’s begin!

Get personal

1. Get personal.

More than likely, you’ll utilize your membership management software to help you create and send large batches of renewal letters. Because these communications are often automated (or aided by your database), it’s easy to get lost in the transaction and forget to include a human touch.

Even though it’s an easy mistake, this error is more fatal than you might think!

For nonprofit organizations, your members are your most dedicated constituents. Not only do they give on a recurring basis and participate in engagement activities, but they set themselves apart by actually identifying themselves as part of your organization.

Since your members are so deeply invested in your nonprofit, it’s important to show the same level of respect and appreciation for them. By interacting with members in a personal way, you’re showing them that they’re not just a face in a crowd—they’re valued on an individual level! 

You should make your letter as personal as possible by including:

  • An accurate, friendly greeting. You should know your members well enough not to refer to them as “Dear Member,” so call them by their (correct!) first name. Use your database to ensure accuracy, and always double check to make sure the right letter is going to the right person.
  • A personable tone. This letter is more than just a formal invoice of members’ dues, so don’t fall into the trap of taking a transactional approach. Let your members know that you’re excited to have them contribute for another year, not just to receive their money!
  • A short handwritten note. If possible, have your membership director add a brief handwritten note to the end of the renewal letter. Especially if you’re a local organization or have interacted personally with this member before, adding a personal touch can go a long way.

For the final once-over, take a cue from this membership renewal letter checklist and ask yourself:

  • Is the greeting personalized?
  • Is my tone conversational and friendly?
  • Did I avoid jargon?
  • Does it read like I’m building an emotional connection and a lasting relationship?

To put it simply, when you use your member renewal letter as an opportunity to remind your members how much you care about them, you’ll be much more likely to see eager renewals.

The point is: Don’t treat your members like they’re nothing more than their membership fees. Show them you value them by crafting a letter that’s personal and friendly, and you’re sure to see your retention rates soar.

Take your members down memory lane

2. Take your members down memory lane.

Before you launch into a request, take a paragraph to remind your members how far their membership fees have gone to further your organization’s cause and enrich their lives since their last renewal.

Look at it this way: your members have other expenses too, and they likely can’t afford to shell out membership fees for an organization that hasn’t given them their money’s worth. If they can’t remember what last year’s dues paid for, they definitely won’t see the point in signing up for another go-round! 

To prevent that from happening, spend some time briefly recapping the value of their membership. If member stewardship has been a priority (and we hope that it has!), you’ll have no issue coming up with a highlight reel of all your membership program has done (and all your members have done for your membership program).

You might want to remind your members of any (or all) of the following:

  • Impact on your cause or community. Did you raise a record amount for your charity’s mission? Perhaps your members’ volunteer efforts had a radical effect on your community. Whatever the case, your nonprofit probably accomplished a lot last year with the help of your devoted members, so let them know you couldn’t do it without them.
  • Member engagement activities. One of the strongest benefits to membership programs is the community they naturally foster. Your events and programs have likely worked to develop a supportive group of like-minded individuals, so make sure this benefit is at the front of your members’ minds.
  • Services and opportunities. Does your membership program offer exclusive content or services for members? Don’t let them forget! Whether you had an educational speaker at your member get-together or hosted a conference, remind your donors how much your organization has helped them learn and grow this year.

You don’t want to spend too much time celebrating the past year’s successes (that’s what your year-end newsletter is for), but you do want to make your rationale clear: your members can’t get the experience of this membership program anywhere else!

The point is: Take some time to help your members recall the value of your membership program. By briefly going over the impact of your program, you’ll have no problem recruiting them for another year.

Understand the urgency

3. Understand the urgency.

As much fun as it is to rehash old times, you can’t avoid the purpose of your letter for long. By the second or third paragraph, it’s time to ask your members to renew their membership.

At this point in the letter, we can’t stress enough the importance of being to-the-point. If membership dues have increased since the last renewal period, tell your members directly. If you want to ask them to upgrade their membership level, quickly explain why and how. If you’re too vague, your members might think you’re hiding something from them, so just be clear from the start.

While you don’t want to be curt, you do want to stress that this is a matter best handled as soon as possible. When members feel they can put off their renewal for a later date, it increases the odds that they won’t ever get around to renewing—and you can’t let that happen! 

Encourage your members to act sooner rather than later by using the following strategies:

  • Include your application form. Take away the guesswork by including a link to your membership application, or a paper copy if your renewal letters are sent by mail. For the best results, make sure your form is user-friendly and well-designed. (Take a look at this article to learn how to optimize your application form!)
  • Make renewals easy. Membership management software can streamline the renewal process for both you and your members. Depending on your provider, you might even be able to include an automated renewal option on your application form or your website’s member portal.
  • Incentivize early renewal. If you’re having a hard time securing early or even on-time renewals, it might be time to up the ante. Though not realistic for every organization, providing benefits for those who take immediate action can seriously pay off. Consider offering a discount if members renew within two weeks of receiving their first renewal letter.

Don’t let your members lapse due to forgetfulness; convince them to secure another year’s involvement as soon as they receive their letter!

For more on requesting donations through letters, check out this post!

The point is: Get to the point quickly and make the pitch your members have been waiting for. Ask for their renewal in a direct, positive way, and make sure the renewal process is easy enough for them to complete on the spot.

Stay gracious

4. Stay gracious.

Remember the bottom line here: your members make your membership program possible. Without their contributions and involvement, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, so show them your gratitude as you ask for their renewal.

Throughout your letter, write with a tone of respect and thankfulness. Don’t ever be demanding!

Moreover, you might consider the following thank-you protocol for both your letter and the follow-up:

  • Close your letter with sincerity. Gratefulness should be the last thing your members see in their member renewal letters. Don’t overdo it (and risk cheesiness), but do include a sincere line to reiterate how appreciative you are as you close your letter.
  • Keep communication open. By failing to include follow-up details for your organization, you’re assuming your members will renew without question. On the contrary, make sure they’re aware that your team is eager to answer any and all of their questions by providing relevant contact information, including a specific point person on your team.
  • Send a thank-you note. Instead of only automating an acknowledgement or receipt, you should send your member a personalized thank-you note as soon as possible. An email is fine, but a handwritten note from your membership director or a board member can reiterate your personal connection to your members.

Gratitude during the renewal period is a major step toward member retention in the long run. Start on the right foot this membership term by proving to your members how much you value them (and avoiding tricky membership engagement mistakes along the way).

The point is: You can’t thank your members enough for what they do for your organization, but you can certainly try! Be gracious throughout your letter and always follow up personally as soon as you can.

Don't forget the details

5. Don’t forget the details.

We can’t talk about effective membership renewal letters without discussing at least a few technical details!

The smallest elements can push your letter to the next level, so let’s break down a few key technical components you can’t ignore: 

  • Keep it concise. As you edit your letter with our tips in mind, you might see your letter growing and growing to include all the necessary elements. Keep in mind that your members are busy and don’t have time for long-winded letters! A page is plenty to get your message across, but definitely don’t got over a 2-page limit.
  • Be persistent. While we’ve only been referring to the membership renewal letter as a singular communication, don’t be fooled into thinking you can get away with sending only one request. Start sending renewal reminders as early as a few months before membership expiration. (Hint: your software can automate these reminders so you don’t have to keep up with them!)
  • Don’t forget lapsed members. Have some members who missed the renewal window? Don’t let them lapse without sending a final reminder. This can be a good time to provide incentives, especially for long-time members.

The point is: Don’t forget the minor details of your renewal letter, from timing to length. Be thoughtful as you review your letter, and your members will appreciate the attention to detail!


Member renewal letters don’t have to be a hassle, for you or your members. When you send a letter that’s engaging and sincere, your members will notice (and they’ll be excited to sign up for another year!).

Need a little extra help crafting your letter? Check out this guide from Neon!

And for more on membership programs, check out these additional resources:

 

Optimize your website for crowdfunding success with these 6 nonprofit web design tips.

The Top 6 Nonprofit Web Design Tips for Crowdfunding Campaigns

Skinny-top-CTAs-for-Fundly

The ultimate goal of any nonprofit website is to convince supporters to take the desired action, whether that be signing up for an email newsletter, registering for a volunteer opportunity, or anything in between.

No matter what your goals, your website must be carefully structured and designed if your organization expects to reach the ideal outcome.

If that outcome happens to be increasing visibility and scoring more donations to your nonprofit’s crowdfunding campaign, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll give you 6 tips that will help you design your website in a way that’s conducive to crowdfunding success, including:

  1. Make sure your donation page is easy to get to.
  2. Use your crowdfunding campaign to keep your website current.
  3. Pack an emotional punch.
  4. Standardize branding.
  5. Keep mobile in mind.
  6. Provide crowdfunding donors with other ways to get involved.

Let’s jump in!

Ensuring that your donation page is easy to get to will result in more online donations to your nonprofit, since donors can readily access your form.

1. Make sure your donation page is easy to get to.

Why it’s crucial:

Considering that crowdfunding relies on a large number of donors to be successful, campaign visibility and accessibility are arguably more important with crowdfunding campaigns than they are with other fundraisers.

To maximize donations to your campaign, your organization must make the giving experience as easy as possible on your donors.

If supporters have to search your website endlessly to find your crowdfunding page, chances are that they won’t even land on the donation form, nevertheless hit the “Submit” button.

Point is, a giving experience that is frustrating in any way is much more likely to be abandoned before the gift has been made, which won’t do much to further your crowdfunding campaign!

How it’s done:

If securing more donations to your crowdfunding campaign is your organization’s main website goal, treat it as the centerpiece!

The key here is to make your crowdfunding page as visible as possible (organically, of course). You should provide supporters with multiple pathways to access your campaign donation form.

For example, you might give supporters the option to access your page by:

  • Including a call-to-action and a link to your campaign page on your homepage.
  • Adding information about your crowdfunding campaign to your “Ways to Give” page.
  • Featuring a “Donate Now” button in your top navigation that specifically links out to your crowdfunding page.

Of course, this list certainly doesn’t cover all of the options. If there’s a natural opportunity to lead website visitors to your crowdfunding campaign donation form, then by all means, guide them!

To sum up: Ensuring that your navigation structure clearly points website visitors to your crowdfunding page will result in more donations to your campaign, since supporters will know exactly where to go to embark on the donation process.

Your crowdfunding campaign will provide your organization with plenty of updates that you can repurpose on your website to keep your content fresh.

2. Use your crowdfunding campaign to keep your website current.

Why it’s crucial:

Amidst a million other important efforts and concerns, in can be all-too-easy to forget to update your website… or to simply sweep updating under the rug.

However, updating your website is crucial to its effectiveness. You need to update regularly to reassure donors that your organization is still active and interested in keeping them in the loop with what’s going on at your nonprofit.

Furthermore, an out-of-date website can make your organization appear less credible. Think about it: have you ever landed on a business’ website that looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1999? You probably weren’t too inclined to believe that that company was up with the times and a current expert in their product or field.

Point is, regularly updating your website can be a difficult feat, but the potential ramifications of not updating can be even greater.

How it’s done:

Luckily, your crowdfunding campaign will give your organization plenty of material for updating your website!

As we’ve discussed in a previous post, it’s important to regularly give your supporters updates during your crowdfunding campaign. Doing so keeps them oriented with your progress and demonstrates the results of their contributions in a more tangible way, both of which lead to a more invested base of donors.

You can repurpose the updates from your crowdfunding campaign to generate new content for your website. For example, you could update your homepage daily to share current campaign progress or publish a series of news article to your blog about the positive work that crowdfunding donations have already made possible.

And those are only a couple of the possibilities! No matter how you choose to leverage them, crowdfunding updates give you the fodder you need to keep your website current.

To sum up: By using news from your crowdfunding campaign, updating your organization’s website on a regular basis will be much more manageable.

Adding emotionally-charged images and stories to your nonprofit's website can make it more compelling to your donors.

3. Pack an emotional punch.

Why it’s crucial:

People are often motivated to give charitably because nonprofit causes tug at their heartstrings in some way. In other words, supporting nonprofits is usually (at least in part) an emotionally-charged pursuit.

That being the case, organizations generally do better at engaging their supporters and convincing them to give when they make an emotional appeal as opposed to a logical one.

By packing an emotional punch with your content, chances are that your website will be more impactful to your donors—both when it comes to conveying your message and encouraging more donations. After all, it’s those visceral reactions that lead to impulse giving!

While designing your website around an emotional appeal won’t directly influence the success of your crowdfunding campaign, it can aid it indirectly. The more you can inspire donors with your cause and impassion them with your mission, the more likely they are to donate to your campaigns.

How it’s done:

Take a nod from your crowdfunding campaign page, and make sure to tell your story through words and photos on your website.

While you should do so throughout your site, appealing to your supporters’ emotions is especially important on your homepage. The very first impression your visitors will have of your website is the look and layout of your homepage, so it’s important to get your message across immediately.

Design your homepage around an emotionally-charged photo of your work or those you serve, and make sure to include a shortened version of your mission statement above the fold (the part of the webpage that visitors can see without scrolling).

As One Project, an organization committed to supporting secondary survivors of sexual assault, perfectly portrays their work in an emotionally compelling way on their homepage:

As One Project tugs at their website visitors' heartstrings with a photo that illustrates their cause and a mission statement that captures their work.

In you’re still in the market for more examples of successful, emotionally-charged nonprofit websites, you’re in luck. You can check out this excellent resource with 200 of the best nonprofit websites of the year, broken out by organizational focus (i.e., international, environmental, animals, etc.).

Whether you review sites through that resource or through other means, the important thing is that you’re analyzing industry-wide best practices and drawing inspiration from the great work of your peers. See what your colleagues in the field have done with their sites, and find ways to leverage those techniques to tell your nonprofit’s emotional story.

To sum up: Nonprofit work is emotional by nature. Increase the chances that website visitors will be swayed by your cause by using compelling stories and images to pack an emotional punch, particularly on your homepage.

Standardizing branding throughout your nonprofit website ensures that donors always feel secure when browsing your site.

4. Standardize branding.

Why it’s crucial:

As all nonprofits know, building trust is key to securing donations. This is especially true for online donations, which are more impersonal since there’s no aspect of face-to-face interaction to help donors feel secure.

If your organization wants to maximize the number of online donations received (and we’re assuming you do!), you must do everything in your power to make your website appear as trustworthy as possible to your donors.

Standardizing branding across your website is one of the most straightforward ways to do just that.

By keeping branding consistent across the board, it becomes a seal of trust. When donors see your look and logo across all pages of your website, they’ll be consistently reminded that they’re investing in a credible cause they care about.

How it’s done:

All pages of your website should have the same look and feel, derived from your logo.

Before you start designing, consider creating a style guide that outlines all design standards. Here are just a few of the many things you’ll probably want to think about:

  • Color scheme. Color schemes should be based off of your logo and include no more than 5-6 colors. There should be 2-3 main colors (brights) as well as an array of neutrals to complement them.
  • Color usage. Beyond simply having a scheme to work with, you should determine which elements will appear in which colors. For example, what colors will donation buttons and other CTAs be? Hyperlinks?
  • Font. Use one font throughout your website, and stick with it. When selecting a font, keep in mind that sans serif fonts are more legible on screens.
  • Images. What types of images will your organization use on your website? Should images be shaped, sized, or formatted in a particular way? Where will images be sourced from? Do you need to secure any permissions? These questions all need to be answered in your style guide!

If you’re working with a web design firm, they should create a style guide for you and design your website around it. If you’re opting to construct your website yourself using a website builder, you should set all defaults in the theme to be consistent with style guidelines.

Important: don’t forget to brand your crowdfunding campaign page, too! Considering that donors are submitting their sensitive information there, they’ll feel much more comfortable giving when your form clearly reflects your organization.

To sum up: Clear and consistent branding across your website builds trust, because donors can be certain that they’re supporting a credible nonprofit.

Now that most donors approach websites from their smartphones, it's of the utmost importance to create a mobile-responsive website that provides them with the best possible experience.

5. Keep mobile in mind.

Why it’s crucial:

Now that mobile phones are so advanced, more and more people are using them to browse the web on the go.

In fact, it’s been estimated that a majority of browsers are now visiting nonprofit websites from mobile devices. The problem is that many nonprofits haven’t yet caught up with the times and optimized their websites (including their donation pages) for mobile users.

It might not seem like a deal breaker at first, but a website that isn’t mobile-responsive can cause your crowdfunding donations (and online contributions in general) to take a hit. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly aren’t user-friendly, so mobile donors are much more likely to become frustrated and leave the site before submitting their donations.

Think about it: wouldn’t you be much less inclined to give if you had to zoom and pinch your screen, scroll up, down, left, and right, and fill out a bunch of tiny, illegible boxes to make a donation?

How it’s done:

How you build a mobile-responsive website will be dependent on how your nonprofit is approaching web design.

If you’re…

  • Designing your website yourself, the website builder that your organization is using should use a responsive design framework that automatically conforms your site to the device it’s being viewed on. However, just because you have this feature doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will translate well to mobile, so be sure to keep mobile in mind as you’re designing.
  • Working with a web design firm, make sure to select a firm who offers mobile-responsive design. Most firms should offer this service now that mobile is so prevalent, but it can’t hurt to double-check!

Remember: the best way to tell if your site is actually mobile-responsive is to test it out for yourself. Take out your smartphone and try donating to your crowdfunding campaign!

To sum up: Mobile-responsive websites provide mobile donors with the best possible user experience. When donating to your crowdfunding campaign is easy, donors will be much more likely to follow through!

By offering your crowdfunding donors other ways to engage with your organization throughout your website, your nonprofit will build a base of more invested donors.

6. Provide crowdfunding donors with other ways to get involved.

Why it’s crucial:

Crowdfunding campaigns can really give your donor acquisition a boost. These campaigns require widespread sharing and are low-stakes for donors, so they’re the ideal opportunity to recruit a lot of new donors to your cause.

In order to transform one-time crowdfunding donors into donors who give again and again, it’s crucial to actively continue building relationships with them. One of the best ways to do that through your website is by offering supporters other opportunities to get involved with your organization!

Not to mention, some supporters who land on your website might want to support your organization, but might not be ready to make a monetary gift. By providing a variety of engagement opportunities on your website, you can win the support of people with a variety of preferences.

How it’s done:

Post-donation engagement opportunities don’t even have to be limited to your acknowledgement page! In fact, they should be incorporated throughout your website.

The key is to match up your webpages with relevant opportunities. Some opportunities might be relevant across the board (for example, an email newsletter subscription box might remain at the bottom of the site on every page), while others would be very specific to certain pages (for example, the opportunity to volunteer for an event might only be limited to a dedicated volunteer information page).

No matter where you place them, all opportunities should be framed as calls-to-action (CTAs). Use short, clear, and actionable language to ensure that donors will understand exactly what you’re requesting.

With the right CTAs, who knows? That supporter who came only intending to give $5 to your crowdfunding campaign might be transformed into a lifelong volunteer!

To sum up: Including other engagement opportunities around your website actively continues the conversation both before and after crowdfunding campaign donors have given. With a wealth of thoughtful engagement opportunities backing you up, you should have a larger base of recurring donors to rely on for your next campaign!


Your nonprofit’s website strategy can greatly influence how much money you’re able to raise during your crowdfunding campaign. With these 6 tips, your website should be conducive to crowdfunding success.

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Discover some game-changing tips that will help your organization find nonprofit CRM software that's the perfect fit.

Choosing a Nonprofit CRM: 8 Game-Changing Tips

Hear stewardship advice from a variety of nonprofit experts

Donor Stewardship Expert Advice from 29 Industry Leaders

Donor stewardship is one of the most, if not the most, important activities a nonprofit does. That being said, it can be a tricky beast.

NonProfitEasy’s team has compiled advice from a variety of experts from the nonprofit sector on how nonprofits can perform effective stewardship for their donors.

Listen to your donors

You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your donors if you’re willing to listen! If you develop trusting relationships with your donors they’ll be the only focus group you ever need. 

Amy DeVita, Chief Operating Officer at Third Sector Today and Top Nonprofits, says:

“Although I’m not personally involved in nonprofit fundraising, I’m very fortunate to get to interview some incredibly successful nonprofit leaders in my line of work! The best practice that I’ve heard time and time again: “Listen” to your donors.

At first blush, it may seem counter-intuitive that “listening” is more important than “telling,” “suggesting,” or “asking.”

But, by listening, you are letting your donor tell you how they want to be further engaged with your cause— and they will be charting the course to a successful and more meaningful relationship for you to follow.”

Vanessa Chase, Fundraising Consultant and Owner of The Storytelling Non-Profit, says:

“Survey your donors! If there’s one tip that I think can make a big difference for stewardship plans it’s to do a donor survey.

Send one annually that includes 5 to 7 questions about donor demographics and their overall satisfaction. It can provide non-profits with vital data points about their donor audience and how they can better steward their audience.”

Craig Linton, Founder of Fundraising Detective, says:

“Never miss an opportunity to get feedback from your donors. Not only does it strengthen your relationship, but it can identify common problems that you can solve to improve your donor experience.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Quality over quantity of communications

Donors who have given to multiple nonprofits are likely inundated with follow-up communications. Make yours stand out by ensuring they’re high quality and meaningful!

Kivi Leroux Miler, President of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, says:

So many nonprofits send bad thank you letters – if they send them at all! Nonprofit thank you letters need to be thought of as a very important, highly strategic piece of communication.

A thank you is NOT just a tax receipt. It should look like a personal letter from one friend to another. Ditch the predictable openings like “Thank you for your gift of…” or “On behalf of our organization…” Draw in the donor immediately by placing them front and center. Something as simple as “You made my day…” is much better.

A great thank you is the first step in creating a relationship with your donor that will inspire them to give again and again.”

Tom Ahern, President at Ahern Donor Communications, says:

“A prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned, donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.

Jeff Schreifels, Senior Partner at the Veritus Group, says:

“It’s sad, but just like we’ve all become accustomed to bad or mediocre customer service and we accept it, it’s the same with donors who give large, multi-year gifts. They have come to expect very little of us.

This is where you can have an advantage over other charities. Your mindset should be that because they gave a gift, I’m going to do the unexpected and cultivate them so wonderfully that they can’t wait to make their next gift.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

True gratitude will make all the difference

It’s because of generous donors that your organization has the opportunity to make a difference. Make sure they know how important they are by thanking them early, frequently, and in a variety of ways. 

Chris Moore, Executive Vice President of Innovairre, says:

“In today’s fundraising environment, where retention is the new acquisition, the days of having a revolving door of endless new donors are long gone!

The need to thank donors promptly and personally is more critical than ever.

After all, it’s not the first gift that’s most important – it’s the second, and first impressions count; you have to earn the right to ask again!”

Claire Axelrad, Principal at Clairification, says:

Effective stewardship can be summed up in two words: gratitude and impact.  Think hard about what you’re grateful to your donor for.

It’s not money; it’s the impact they’ve made possible. Tell them; show them.

It doesn’t matter how great your relationship is now. If you don’t demonstrate repeated gratitude and/or can’t show your donor their money is creating an impact, there won’t be much of a relationship for long.”

Joe Garecht, Founder of The Fundraising Authority, says:

“Your non-profit would not exist without your donors. So why not start treating your donors like the essential members of your team that they really are?

Your donors are the heroes of your work… your program staff and volunteers are important, but your donors are essential. Make sure they know that!”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Always connect donors with your organization’s mission

A charitable donation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Make sure your donors or potential donors know where their money is going and the difference that they’re making to your organization. 

Marc Pitman, Fundraising Coach at The Nonprofit Academy, says:

One of the most important things to do in donor stewardship is connect the donor to the mission. We need to bring donors into what my friend, Shanon Doolittle, calls these ‘mission moments.’ We often overlook these because they’re things our nonprofit is doing on a regular basis. But these are exactly what the donor is investing in. And since they’re happening on a regular basis, it doesn’t take a lot of programming or organizational inconvenience to bring donors in.

The best part? When non-fundraising staff see donors get excited about their work, the non-fundraising staff start willingly helping with the fundraising!”

Sarah Bernstein, Founder and Owner at Philanthrodata, says:

“I would suggest that in acknowledgements and reports to donors, that nonprofits emphasize what they can accomplish with and because of donors, what donors have made possible, rather than a litany of the organization’s achievements.

For example, they could talk about what it means to the people they serve to know that the community (of donors) believes in their potential and has demonstrated that by investing in their future. Also, they should pay attention to the people who pay attention to them, especially the donors who follow them in social media.”

Lomesh Shah, Founder and CEO of NonProfitEasy, says:

“Too often, nonprofits will separate fundraising activities from their ‘mission’ as an organization.

We try to encourage nonprofits to always link any monetary solicitation with a tangible outcome.

This is an easy way to show donors that their donation is making a difference and showcase process after a fundraising campaign.”

Remember to follow up, and follow up, and follow up!

Donor stewardship is not a one and done sort of activity. It’s an ongoing relationship with donors that your organization should constantly be looking to deepen, develop, and grow. 

Julia Campbell, Principal at J Campbell Social Marketing, says:

“Donor stewardship does not mean just sending a thank you note and then contacting the donor again the next time you need money.

No. You need to tell donors how the gifts made an impact and continue to build the relationship with them.”

Eric Rardin, Vice President at Care2, says:

“Committing to year-round stewardship will retain current donors and recruit new repeat donors. Their funds are an extension of their faith in the organization and the missions, so remember: you’re not only stewarding their money, you’re stewarding their trust.

Care for your donors by investing in them — send a personalized thank you note; a formal, written thank you note; mid-year update; and a personalized ask the following year.”

Brian Dowling, Principal and Founder at SupportingFundraising.com and SupportingAdvancement.com, says:

One of the most important stewardship activities are reports sent to donors on a periodic basis informing them about what has been done with their investment in your organization. “

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Find ways to engage donors of all donation levels

Having industry leading donor stewardship means you are engaging potential donors at all giving levels, ages, and exposures to your nonprofit. Think about the different ways your organization can find opportunities to interact with organizations of all types. 

Alex Saavedra, Digital Marketing Manager at Greater Giving, says:

“Young donors are hands-on and serious about helping. The common thing among young donors is the desire to be involved—especially when working on limited budgets, the amount they care and want to participate may not be matched by how much they can give.

A donor is a long-term investment—if these donors have a positive experience with your organization when they’re young, they’ll continue donating long into the future when they have more disposable income.

Provide opportunities for young donors to get involved in other ways besides donating (such as volunteering and hosting their own local events such as a 5K).”

Bill Tedesco, CEO of DonorSearch, says:

“Prospect research can help your front-line fundraisers identify which donors have the capacity to give a major gift and a history of past philanthropy.

This will enable your development team to ensure that those major donors receive excellent stewardship to keep them engaged for years to come!”

Brian Lacy, Owner at Brian Lacy and Associates, says:

“Annuals funds are a great way to cultivate a strong pipeline of donors who have the potential to make a major donation down the line. The secret to your success in this effort will be your organization’s donor stewardship program!”

Focus on stewardship, not solicitation

Soliciting donations is only one part of donor stewardship. Make sure your communications with donors are varied so they’re receiving a diversity of information about your organization.

Farra Trompeter, Vice President at Big Duck, says:

“Celebrate your donors and make them feel like heroes. Highlight your accomplishments as theirs!

Highlight what your donors care about. Not sure what that is or why they give? Ask them via phone interviews or surveys.
Don’t just ask donors to give. Make sure to book-end any appeal with non-donation actions, updates on results, and word of thanks.”

Erik Anderson, Founder & President of The Healthy Non-Profit, says:

“Donors are not ATMs, they are people with wishes and dreams. Your job as a fundraising professional is to help people realize those dreams. You are not a mugger lurking in the shadows trying to snatch a donor’s wallet or purse. If there is one guiding principle that is paramount to all other fundraising best practices, it is treat your best donors like you would your childhood BFF.

  • Check-in with them from time-to-time.
  • Care about what is happening in their life.
  • Put their needs ahead of your own.
  • Spend time with them figuring out what they want their philanthropy to accomplish and then show them how your organization can help them accomplish their goals and dreams.

The more personal you can make your cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship interactions, the stronger your relationship will become. Philanthropy done right can be enriching for all parties involved!”

Bond Lammey, Senior Associate at Bentz Whaley Flessner, says:

“Put as much effort into creating a stewardship plan for your donors as you do in creating cultivation/solicitation plans. Your best future donors are your current donors, and if you neglect to demonstrate how much you appreciate your current donors, you run the risk of losing them as donors.

On a slightly related note, I recently made a first gift to an organization. About six weeks later, I got a letter in the mail from them. While this was a long time to wait for a thank you letter, I was glad to see it in my mailbox.

I opened it up…only to discover that it was a solicitation!

I was being asked for another gift before I had ever been thanked for the first one!”

Eliza McNulty, Board Member at the Associaton of Donor Relations Professionals, says:

“To be truly donor-focused, donor relations and stewardship programs must find the sweet spot between developing policies & procedures, gathering donor feedback and exhibiting empathy.

We must step into the shoes of our donors, aim to understand their feelings and perspectives, and use that understanding to guide our actions.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Mix up how you do donor acknowledgement

There’s more to donor communication than email and direct mail. Mix up how you interact with donors to separate your organization from the rest!

Joanne Fritz, Nonprofit & Charitable Organizations Expert at About.com, says:

Multi-channel fundraising is a hot topic, though no one talks about multichannel thanking. Consider thanking by snail mail just another channel for your campaign.

Many people who receive your direct mail appeal likely respond by going to your website and donating. It’s a matter of convenience, not dislike of the mail.

John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert at Inbound Zombie, says:

“Social media empowers donors to share stories about the causes they care about. If they care enough about yours to make a donation, they’ll care enough to share your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

One of the best places to promote sharing is on your “thank you” pages. These are the first pages donors see after clicking “donate”, so the likelihood they’ll share the campaign is relatively high.”

Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation, says:

“Make sure to include matching gift appeals in your donor acknowledgements. It’s an easy way to let donors know that they might be eligible to double their donation!”

Transparency and trust come first

If your organization is doing great work and making a positive difference in the world then don’t hide it! Be open and honest about how you’re using donations or where your organization is looking to improve in the future. 

Larry Johnson, Founder of 8 Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, says:

“Seemingly counterintuitive, freely and openly admitting your mistakes, is one of the most powerful forces in renewing your donors. Total transparency—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What does this do? It shows your respect for your investors and gives you the ability to continue making promises going forward. It’s one of those ironies of life.”

Erin Moyer, President at the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, says:

“To keep donors coming back, you must not only show them that yours is a quality organization with a solid reputation, but also one they can trust with their money.

After a first gift, each experience and touch you give your donor will help them further identify with your mission and ultimately strengthen your relationship.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Use technology to make your donor’s lives easier

Technology is revolutionizing the nonprofit sector by making it easier than ever for donors to engage with causes they care about. Figure out how your organization can embrace technology to make the donation process and stewardship process as simple as possible for prospects or donors.

Meagan Nordmann, Digital Marketing Lead for @Pay, says:

In order to keep an ongoing relationship with your donors so that they become repeat donors, organizations must be sure that the online donation process is as simple as possible.

Currently, most nonprofits require donors to visit multiple web pages, or remember a username and password, or download an app, or enter 57 keystrokes of payment information every single time they want to give.

There are express checkouts now that let donors give in just a few clicks, no matter what device they are giving from.

Rafi Norberg, President of Helperful, says:

“Linking to your donation pages or including call-to-actions at the bottom of your virtual communications will encourage some percentage of the folks who visit your website to become first-time donors.

This is a simple, automated way to improve your inbound donation pipeline.”

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