Making connections with your donors is one of the most important things a nonprofit organization needs to do. What's the best way to go about it? It's going to be different for each organization and you'll need to figure out what works best for you. Your decision will be based primarily on what your donors want, but also on what your organization is capable of doing.
What other organizations are doing may not work for you. In my last post, I asked if annual reports still make sense, and they do for some organizations, but not for others.
We live in multichannel world
Today we have many ways to communicate - everything from brochures to Pinterest. Print materials aren't necessarily prehistoric, but you can often go electronic, with the exception of annual appeal letters, thank you letters, and event invitations, which should still be done in print.
It seems as if every day you hear about some new type of social media. Just because it's brand new doesn't mean you need to run out and embrace it, nor does it mean you should reject it as the latest passing fad. Figure out what's best.
What do your donors want?
You want to use the same types of communication (newsletters, annual reports, etc.) and channels (email, print, etc) your donors like. You can track response rates with measurement, but that's only part of the picture. The best way to find out is to ask.
Send a short survey about your communication materials or a series of very short surveys (one or two questions) throughout the year focusing on one type of communication or channel, such as annual reports, newsletters, website, or social media.
Short surveys are also great way to stay engaged throughout the year. The easiest way to do a survey is through email, on your website, or social media, but if your donors aren't connected electronically, you'll need to reach out by mail or phone. Just knowing that should give you an idea of the best ways to communicate.
Chances are most people use a variety of channels, but have their favorites.
If you are not sure what to ask your donors, here are few suggestions. Ask if they prefer print, electronic, or have no preference. Find out if they even read your newsletter or annual report. Get their feedback on how you can improve your communication.
Be careful about asking too many questions at once, because you may not get as much of a response.
Don't assume older donors like print and younger donors want something mobile friendly. Ask.
You may find that what your donors want is difficult for you to do because of limited resources. Maybe they want a print newsletter or more photos. This becomes tricky, because you need to do what's best for your donors without overextending your budget and staff too much.
In my next post, I'll write about how to handle this conflict.
How do you reach out to your donors?
Photo by BenSpark via Flickr