How Approachable is Your Nonprofit?

By Allison Gauss
Young Men Laughing
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Technology has empowered nonprofit organizations to accomplish more than was ever possible before—the ability to reach more people and spread information is a vital tool for scalability. But even with advanced tools, nonprofits must never forget the value of creating personal connections with their supporters.

Sure, donors can find your website, but can they find a staff member?

Learn how to put a face to your organization and engage donors on a personal level by taking a few simple steps. Take stock of how donors contact you and optimize their experience by offering a specific point of contact, responding promptly, and proactively engaging them.

How Donors Get in Touch

The most common ways for supporters to contact nonprofits these days is through one of three channels:

1. Email

2. Phone

3. Social Media

To make sure your nonprofit presents an approachable, welcoming image, you should think about how to make each of these outlets a more personal experience. One of the most important steps is to give supporters a specific person to contact by phone or email.

Put yourself in a donor’s position. They have a specific question and they can’t find the answer on your website. They go to your “Contact Us” tab where you list an email address: [email protected] You may be very diligent about checking your “[email protected]” account, but the exchange still seems detached and impersonal. Make sure your donors and anyone else with inquiries about your organization has a friendly face to email.

nonprofit organization

This can still be an account that only receives donor questions and comments, with the featured staff member retaining an internal email address for other business. The named staffer doesn’t even have to be the only one who checks the inbox. The point is that the donor or supporter sending the email pictures a real, live person reading and responding.

No matter how a supporter contacts your nonprofit, they most likely want an answer from a real person. While technological advances and automation have made many aspects of nonprofit management more efficient, it can’t take the place of real conversation and human interaction. Your task is to maintain as much of that personal touch as you can while keeping the process easy for you too.

In the case of phone communications, the first words you say to a caller can set the tone for the entire conversation. When you answer the phone, you should greet the person, introduce your organization, and identify yourself.

“Hello, Minnesota Association for Children. This is Linda. How can I help you?”

It doesn’t matter if Linda is the programs manager, the executive director, or the intern. She is representing the organization and needs to be friendly and professional.

When it comes to social media, being approachable can often be as simple as asking for feedback or comments. This shows that you want to have a conversation with supporters, not just promote yourself. To help drive home that your organization is run by real people, don’t be afraid to occasionally post about what’s going on in your office or highlight a specific staff member.

Posts like this show the people behind your programs.

Be Receptive and Responsive

In this era of automation, offering a specific person to contact is an important step in donor stewardship, but a personalized account is only good if it receives personal attention. Your response time to emails and phone calls will vary based on the size and staff of your organization, but the rule of thumb is to answer within one day.

Even if you can’t answer all their questions or need to check on the information, at least acknowledge the email and say you’re looking into it. When it comes to customer service, quicker is almost always better.

You should also keep an eye on your social media presence. If you never answer comments or retweet mentions, you’re missing out on an easy way to connect with donors in the spaces where they already spend their time.

The good news is that social media exchanges are often short and simple. You don’t need an essay to accompany your Instagram post. Just pay attention, “Like” comments, and respond to questions. Social networks like Twitter are also great places to publicly acknowledge and thank individuals who have supported you.

The final ingredient to create a collaborative, approachable image with your supporters is to simply listen to them. Even if you don’t have the answer they want, many people will be more pleasant if you simply take the time to listen. One individual might be voicing a concern many donors have, but none have bothered to express. The person on the other end might want to get involved with a struggling program. If you listen closely, you will have a better idea of what this donor wants and how you can give it to them.

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising is all about relationships, and any good relationship needs open communication. Evaluate whether or not your organization invites contact from donors or builds walls to keep them out. To keep donors coming back, you have to show them you want their input.

Keep Donors Coming Back

customer service guide for nonprofits

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