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How to Engage Donors Creatively After the Giving Season

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By Jess Woloszyn

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Published December 15, 2021 Reading Time: 6 minutes

The days, weeks, and months following the year-end season can be more critical to the long-term health of your organization than the holidays themselves. That’s why it’s never too early to start planning how your nonprofit will engage donors into the new year based on today’s fundraising trends and insights.

Let’s cover how you can get creative to retain year-end donors through 2022.

Make a First Impression That Ignites Generosity All Year

Your donor experience matters. Supporters who are delighted by an intuitive campaign page that leads to a seamless checkout flow are more likely to share your cause with their network of loyal peers and passionate philanthropists. 

Step one to retain new supporters acquired during the holiday season is to make a strong impression from their very first interaction with your organization.

Offer a fulfilling giving season experience that kicks off on Giving Tuesday and lasts through every year-end touchpoint. Stand out by making each donor feel like they play the most valuable role in your nonprofit’s mission—because they do. Once you establish a strong sense of connection, you shape your relationship with supporters for years to come. This is especially true for donors giving for the first time

Think of this analogy: Imagine finally getting a table at the popular new restaurant you’ve been waiting to go to. You sit down and have one of the most delicious meals of your life, but the service and experience were awful. Do you go back? Do you tell your friends to go? The lesson here is you can have a great cause and mission, but a lackluster experience can negatively impact your donors’ perception of your organization and willingness to support you again.

Some nonprofits may be surprised to learn that catching a donor’s eye doesn’t necessarily need to be extravagant. Why America Gives highlighted that the biggest motivator for donors to give to a cause is simply understanding the impact of their gift. Here are the other factors that donors listed:

The Top Factors Donors Say Lead to an Excellent Donor Experience

  1. A nonprofit clearly explains the impact a donation will have
  2. The ability to choose from multiple payment options, including ACH, Venmo, PayPal, or cryptocurrency
  3. The opportunity to cover fees to ensure 100 percent of the intended donation goes to the cause

It’s important to note the emphasis that today’s donors place on impact to distinguish an excellent giving experience from one that feels disjointed. Equally important is the ongoing expectation for options and flexibility during the donation checkout experience related to payment types and transaction fees.

Nonprofits can now accept PayPal and Venmo donations through their Classy donation forms and offer donors the option to cover their associated fees to give as much as possible to the cause.

Get a deeper understanding of the donor preferences shaping the nonprofit sector this year and into 2022. 

Engage Donors With an Impactful Thank You

Donors will remember if you crush your thank you.

If you’re using an online fundraising platform for your holiday campaigns, the odds are you can automate your thank you emails and donation receipts. Remember that donors who land on your donation page and complete their gifts chose you over (or alongside) many causes. Make your outreach feel personal to remain memorable among auto-responders. The goal is to sound human and use authenticity to leave a lasting impression and make them want to give to you again.

Here are some tips for following up with your supporters:

  • Customize your thank you message and donation receipt for your giving season donors to explain the impact of their gifts during that specific time frame. Add details like who was supported, how many people were impacted, or images to showcase the impact. Help them feel that their contributions make a tangible difference that lasts into the new year.
  • Go above and beyond with a personalized email in addition to your first thank you that continues the conversation. Don’t forget to also comment on the activity wall of your campaign page to say thank you through a message that’s not just attached to a receipt. 
  • Demonstrate their gift’s impact with thank you notes from beneficiaries or team members explaining how their gift fueled your goals for this year and how they can continue to support. Help donors see themselves as part of the solution to the challenges you’re tackling. 

You’ll build stronger relationships with a personalized thank you that isn’t attached to an ask. Think of it as another touchpoint to plan into your nurture strategy with donors, and get creative to let your authenticity shine. 

Establish a Strong Social Media Presence to Engage Donors Organically

Social media is how over half of donors are finding new causes. It only makes sense as these platforms become the hubs for all things engagement and community. It may be time to think about your social media presence in the new year. 

Use the months following year-end as an opportunity to rethink your nonprofit’s social media template to see how you can organically show up on your supporters’ feeds to stay top of mind. 

Here are some quick tips for using social media to retain donors: 

  • Make frequent, impactful updates: Use each post as an opportunity to connect to donors authentically.  Take advantage of impactful images and storytelling to remind donors why your cause needs continued support and is making a clear difference in the community. Imagine a testimonial video from a child who received support over the holidays or an image of volunteering in action. These visuals are a powerful way to bring a human element to each post you share with your community. 
  • Include a timely CTA: The updated link feature in Instagram stories and the ability to include links in posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter make it easy to always have a timely CTA. You don’t want to overwhelm donors with too many options, so consider your goals each month and add a link that will provide the easiest path to give. For example, you could feature your live year-end campaign following Giving Tuesday or a landing page for your recurring giving membership program when you need to boost sustainable revenue. 

Honesty and impact matter more than ever when it comes to social media, and donors are more likely to give again when they receive regular updates about how your cause is making tangible changes with the funding that comes in.

Think Through a Continuous Path to Give

Your giving season donors can be your next loyal supporters if you make it easy to give again. What’s to stop a Giving Tuesday donor who gave $50 this year from writing a $1,000 check for your annual event next spring? Think about how to offer that next step in the giving journey to motivate increased levels of support. 

How to engage donors with cross-campaign promotion:

Recurring donations: Consider asking your donors to make an automated gift that they can set and forget. Recurring donations give supporters a way to contribute at a lower cost commitment while bringing the same level of impact that a major donor might. Our 2021 Recurring Donor Sentiment report asked recurring donors what motivates them to continue an ongoing donation. Use their feedback to position your ask better:

  • 61% are motivated by the affordability of segmenting gifts over time
  • 45% are motivated by physical swag
  • 44% are motivated by exclusive access to cause-related events

Peer-to-peer fundraising: Fundraising enables supporters to raise more money than they would be able to give on their own. Create tailored asks for your giving season donors to share your cause with their network through a peer-to-peer campaign. You could even opt to share a DIY fundraising option to get their creative juices flowing on how they can fundraise for you whenever they want throughout the year.

Events: Make sure to promote your upcoming fundraising events as widely as possible to allow your supporters to interact with your mission in entirely new ways. Consider how you can incorporate hybrid events into your strategy to expand your reach, and how your nonprofit can spark interest ahead of your event’s formal registration period to generate a positive buzz. 

Segment Communication to Engage Donors Longer

People come together throughout the giving season for different reasons. Customize your communication as you begin to better understand your donor base for more meaningful outreach. Treating them with some exclusivity can pay dividends if someone feels compelled to support you during the giving season.

Take your communication to the next level by reaching out specifically to donors who gave to your Giving Tuesday or year-end campaign for the first time, as a repeat donor, or as a major gift. We break this down for you below.

Consider these segmentation ideas to engage donors:

First-time donors: Follow up with a hand-written letter or video to connect their actions during the giving season or on Giving Tuesday to your cause in a personalized way. Use their name and show them that they are much more than a transaction by inviting them to get involved in your annual event or upcoming campaigns. It’s also a great time to share your social media handles so they can feel involved with everything you’re doing.

Return giving season donors: Express that you know this person made an effort to return to your cause and stick around. It’s a great time to share peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities for the coming year and encourage them to get their communities involved in a team effort to make an even more significant impact.

Major gift donors: When someone makes a large gift, whether it’s for the first time or returning to give again during your year-end campaigns, you have a great opportunity to source a recurring gift. Explain how automated donations on a  weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis can move the needle for your cause.

Outside of first-time or repeat donors, other data points that can help you segment your lists include:

  • Location of donor
  • Gift amount
  • The specific program they supported
  • Whether they left a comment with their gift
  • Whether they sent an eCard to a loved one 

Understand How to Engage Donors for a Strong Retention Rate

Your donors came to you with a passion for making a difference. At the same time, there are always new causes to support coming their way. Remaining top of mind is the most straightforward strategy to retain their long-term loyalty.

Remember not to overthink it. Your organization already connects with each of your supporters uniquely. Simply reminding them why they hit that donate button the first time is plenty to impact ongoing support for your cause.

Use our latest donor behavior data in Why America Gives 2021 to tailor your approach based on who your donors are today, and how you’d like your donor base to grow in the future.

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