6 Best Practices for Engaging Your Donors Year-Round


By now, you likely have a year-end fundraising campaign plan in place, and your team is busy writing email message copy, designing emails and website lightboxes, picking out photos, setting up new donation pages, and thinking about content for social media. But what happens when your November and December fundraising campaigns end? Building strong relationships with your various audiences requires a year-round communications plan so you can connect meaningfully and encourage deeper engagement. 

Here are six best practices for engaging your donors year-round:

  1. Thank your donors
    Start the new year right by thanking your donors who made year-end gifts. If you can, try to personalize the thank you to acknowledge repeat donors, donors who have upgraded their gifts, first time donors, and new monthly donors. Of course, thanking your donors applies all year round.
  2. Create an email welcome series for new email subscribers
    New subscribers to your email list should receive a series of three or four automated emails to welcome them. Let your creativity flow and create something truly special to inspire and engage. Your email welcome series could include a series of emails from key stakeholders in your organizations, including a Board member or a long-time committed volunteer.
  3. Create balanced communications with your donors
    Strive to achieve balance in your communications of fundraising, cultivation, and engagement. Do a communications audit to assess what your audiences receive. Donors, supporters, and volunteers have different interests and levels of commitment. Create a communications plan that matches with audience interests.
  4. Map out your seasonal cornerstone fundraising campaigns
    Cornerstone campaigns are repeated every year and will allow you to map out your fundraising appeals and your anticipated revenue. Examples include yearly renewal and membership drives, monthly giving recruitment efforts, matching gift campaigns, and the ubiquitous year-end giving season.
  5. Rethink your newsletter as a donor engagement tool
    Your newsletter is the most dangerous tool in your communications toolbox. The danger comes in underestimating its potential and wasting it with casual monthly “news” content. The true power of this monthly or quarterly opportunity is to rethink your newsletter as a donor, supporter, and volunteer engagement tool. By refocusing your message on how donors are making a difference, you can better utilize your newsletter for deepening donor engagement.
  6. Invest in connecting with donors through your social media channels
    Your donors are very interesting people and you should be keeping tabs on them via any social media channels where they are active. Consider your donors as a special class of “social media influencers” and be sure to retweet their content and engage in direct messaging with them.  This sort of cross-channel communication will allow you to deepen relationships with donors and open new doors to collaboration.

Join me on Thursday, November 16 for an hour-long webinar “Start the New Year Right with Year-Round Donor Engagement,” to learn the best practices for building strong relationships with your donors using a year-round communications plan. You’ll leave with practical tips you’ll be able to apply immediately.

Michael Stein

MICHAEL STEIN is a veteran nonprofit digital strategist who has worked for the past twenty five years at the intersection of communications, social media and fundraising. His areas of expertise include online fundraising, email messaging, email list growth, website usability, blogging, mobile content and social media. He has most recently worked as a Senior Account Executive at Mal Warwick Donordigital in Berkeley, California, where he managed national, regional and local campaigns to help nonprofits raise money online and engage supporters. Additionally, Michael has provided strategic consulting to numerous organizations during his professional career including: The William J. Clinton Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, United Nations Food Program, The James Irvine Foundation, Animal Legal Defense Fund, American Lung Association of California, and the ACLU of Northern California.