When Do Donors Want to Hear From You?

  • by Ryan Phillips
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For as much attention as nonprofit organizations have to pay to the kinds of messages they send to donors, it pays to think once in a while about how often you want to reach out to them, too. That's because there's a constant balancing act that you have to manage: Get in touch with them more often than you should, and you risk annoying the men and women who support your programs. Wait too long, on the other hand, and you may no longer be at the top of their minds when they are thinking of making a charitable gift.

There isn't ever going to be a perfect schedule that you can stick to when it comes to following up with donors, if only because each one is different. Still, there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure you stay on the right side of their good graces, and maximize the impact of your fundraising communications:

you should be in touch at regular intervals.

For your best donors, this probably means at least every three months or so. Wait too much longer, and there is a chance that you can start to feel like a distant concern, rather than an organization that they are closely involved with.

Sending out a regular monthly, or bi-monthly, newsletter is a great way to keep this kind of contact going. It's not so overwhelming as hearing from your group every few weeks, but is also often enough to keep them informed about what's been going on with your organization.

it's a good idea to send appeals at tax time.

As much as we would love for donors to support nonprofits strictly to help a certain cause, the reality is that tax implications factor into the mix – and sometimes, they factor heavily. And so, for obvious reasons, it makes sense to reach out to your most important donors in the months leading up to December 31.

To get the biggest response, don't be content to just send one letter or e-mail. Instead, try to make it a series of communications, emphasizing not just the tax benefits of donating to your organization, but also all of the great programs and ideas you have planned in the year ahead.

always notify donors when you have big news.

Given that donors and volunteers represent the backbone of your organization, don't leave them in the dark when it comes time to celebrate your victories. From the biggest wins to the smallest triumphs, let them know right away that you have good news to share.

This is especially important if you are planning some sort of celebratory event, since you'll want to give donors enough time to clear their schedules. The more attendees you have, and the more good news you have to share, the bigger your future donations will be.

likewise, be in touch when you need to get ahead of bad news.

Let's face it, not every communication you have to send out is going to be a positive one. Nonprofit organizations are still organizations, which means you're going to have mistakes, employee mishaps, and other issues that come up from time to time.

Your tendency in those situations might be to keep things to yourself, or within your own walls, but it's usually a good idea to fight this impulse. The last thing you want is for donors to think that you are concealing things from them, so make sure to be the first voice they hear when you have bad news to share.

let donors know when your organization is undergoing significant changes.

All nonprofits change over time, whether it's in the size of their programs, the shape of their leadership, or the direction of their efforts. By communicating these changes clearly to donors, you don't just show them that you're growing and evolving, but also give them reasons to be more excited about your future.

Too much change can be detrimental to your image, but announcing shifts in leadership and strategy can actually inject new excitement into your fundraising campaigns. Remember that, and be sure to fill donors in on new ideas and directions.

There's no doubt about it: Knowing exactly when to reach out to donors can be tough. If you follow these guidelines, though, you will be able to contact them often enough to raise money, but not so often as to be ignored.

See original eNewsletter.