How to Help Your Donors Feel Connected

Stelter Client Strategist Kit Lancaster joins us for today’s blog. In her role at Stelter, Kit partners with our nonprofits across the country to create fundraising campaigns that help them connect with and inspire their legacy donors.

What do you love about the holidays?

From family get-togethers to holiday happy hours to opening cards from far-flung friends, the warmth of many favorite holiday rituals comes from the connections they reinforce.

Feeling connected—to our communities and the people around us—helps put the happy in “happy holidays.”

As fundraisers, we want to build and reinforce connections. Connections help our supporters stay engaged and feel happy, too. Giving is driven by emotions, and emotions develop through connection.

4 Ways to Build Connection with Your Marketing

Consider these ways to help your donors feel connected throughout the year.

1. Meet your supporters’ emotional needs

We’ve blogged before about self-determination theory and humans’ three motivational needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Consider how your marketing can help meet these needs to help donors feel emotionally connected to your organization. For example, an article on how to prepare to meet with an estate planning attorney can help legacy prospects feel more competent. Inviting donors to join a legacy society or affinity group can help them experience a greater sense of belonging.

  • Tip: Offer your donors autonomy through choices. Give donors the ability to make decisions, whether choosing how you communicate with them, how to direct their gift, or how they would like to continue to be involved.

“Preference Duals,” or tying a donation to self-expression choices, can even be a way to increase giving—check out this article from Harvard Business Review for more about this strategy. Here at Stelter, we use preference and competition to help boost participation in our employee fundraisers. Raising money for a local animal shelter, our employees joined either Team Cat or Team Dog; for the food pantry, fans of the University of Iowa (Hawkeyes) or Iowa State (Cyclones) battled to bring in the most items.

2. Follow the ‘BOY’ rule

The 40-40-20 Rule might be our favorite fundraising rule here at Stelter, but “BOY” (Because of You) is a personal close second. Your donor, not your organization, should be the focus of your communications. Effective stewardship means connecting the dots between a donor’s gift and the impact it made. Connect those dots when asking a donor for a gift and when thanking them for it. “You” is considered one of the five most powerful words in the English language. Make sure YOU use it!

  • Tip: Count your pronouns. The next time you’re drafting a donor letter or email, count the number of times you use “you” pronouns vs. “I” or “we” pronouns. If you have more “I” or “we” statements, look for ways to reword those statements.

3. Prompt reflection

Encourage donors to reflect on their connection to your organization, whether that’s a physical time-and-place connection or shared values. Ask them about how they first became connected with you and why. Prompting donors to reflect on their values can be a powerful tactic in legacy marketing, as donors often create legacy gifts to perpetuate their values.

  • Tip: Trigger nostalgia. If your donors have a physical connection to your organization, consider using photos or stories that remind them of their happy memories.

4. Reinforce your supporters’ identity

As donors strengthen their connection to your work, it will become part of their identity. This encourages them to behave in ways that are consistent with that identity. For example, if someone develops an identity as a clean water advocate, they are more likely to volunteer time to protect waterways or donate to causes that do the same.

Reinforce this identity in your thank-you messaging by telling donors how much you appreciate their compassion and generosity. Adrian Sargeant has a great post on this topic on the Bloomerang blog.

  • Tip: Use nouns. Instead of “thank you for your support,” try “thank you for being a supporter.”

Don’t Replace Face to Face

Of course, nothing compares to the connection you can build through authentic, person-to-person relationships—whether virtual or in-person.

Looking for more ways to connect with your donors? Try these 7 strategies to build stronger donor bonds.

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