How to build an unbreakable bond with new donors

Congratulations – you’ve made it through another busy year-end fundraising season!

Give yourself a pat on the back, and take some time to celebrate all your accomplishments.

What would our sector do without committed folks like you?

Your hard work touches so many lives – the communities impacted by your cause, your colleagues, and not least, your donors.

Once you’ve taken some time to bask in the glow of your 2017 achievements…get ready to get to work!

Because this is the prime time to begin the crucial process of bonding with your new year-end donors.

Let’s walk through it – what does an ideal bonding process with your new donor look like?

It’s prompt

I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.

Donors notice when you don’t acknowledge their gift and process their payment promptly.

It’s a basic building block of good donor care – but an oft neglected one. If you can meaningfully acknowledge a donor’s gift within 48 hours of receiving it, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

You may think that ship has sailed for your new year-end donors – but it’s never too late! Do your best to catch up now, and build timely acknowledgment into your plan for next year.

It’s warm and personal

Too many donor thank you letters read like business form letters.

Dear Mrs. Lewzey,

Thank you for your gift of $XX to our 2017 Snuggle the Puppies campaign…


Write like a human, not a robot. Infuse some EXCITEMENT into your letter!

I got so excited about your important puppy snuggling work that I took the time to send you some of my hard earned money…


Get jazzed when you write your thank you letters!

I want to feel your excitement! I want to feel the love! I want to see a little bit of you, human fundraiser, and the passion you have for your cause.

Even better, pick up the phone and give me a call. I often include my phone number with my donations, and can count the number of times on one hand I got a call simply to thank me in 2017 (got lots of calls when the credit card for my monthly gift expired, though – funny that!)

It reminds them of the change they are making in the world

Here’s an easy and often overlooked way to show impact early on in your relationship with your new donor.

Do you have a past Gratitude Report or recent newsletter sharing powerful examples of the impact of their gift? Write a little cover note for your new donor, and pop it in the mail in the next couple of weeks.

Use the tools you already have – if you’re sharing compelling stories in your donor communications, there’s no reason you can’t thoughtfully re-purpose past reports or newsletters your new donor has not yet seen.

In fact, next time you are creating a newsletter or gratitude report, you can approach it with this in mind – is there a way to write and design these communications so they serve double duty for your current donors, as well as staying fresh and relevant for new donors over the upcoming months/year?

It offers opportunities to get more involved

Ideally, somewhere in your donor bonding process, you’ll give your new donor the opportunity to get more involved with your organization.

If you don’t do this already, 2018 is a great year to figure out how to incorporate this into your donor bonding process.

You could do it as a part of a new donor survey – or it could be as simple as asking if there are any ways they’d like to get more involved with your work during a phone call.

Chances are, there are lots of ways a donor can get more engaged with your organization.

Could they get involved with your advocacy work, by signing and sharing a petition? Do you have volunteer roles available they may be interested in? Is there a chance for them to come out and meet like-minded folks at an open house or other engagement event? Can they give in other ways, or mobilize other supporters in your community?

It’s still a process

Be purposeful about your process – make a simple plan and timeline, and follow it.

Sometimes, us creative, warm and fuzzy types resist crucial parts of effective fundraising – such as process development, and data management – feeling like they get in the way of our spontaneous expressions of donor love!

This work matters too much to be left to chance.

Even the smallest of shops can create a simple plan incorporating affordable tools like handwritten thank you notes and donor phone calls – in fact, as a smaller shop, you are positioned to do this a lot better than many larger shops!

How will you be using the next few weeks to build that crucial bond with your year-end donors? Do you have any tips or strategies that have worked for you that you can share with other readers? Leave a comment below, or drop me a line at [email protected] - I love hearing from fellow fundraisers and non-profit friends, so if you ever have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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