Many organizations make the fatal mistake of asking their donors for gifts over and over again without a break for other types of communication. However, when you don’t vary the type of communications and engagement opportunities with your supporters, your donors may start to feel like an ATM, always giving funds but receiving little in return.

Instead of continuing this vicious cycle, nonprofit professionals have started to realize the value of focusing on relationships with donors and how they can keep supporters connected to the mission for the long haul.

Giving supporters additional opportunities to stay involved and connected with your organization results in better relationships and higher donor retention rates.

In this guide, we’ll dive into three ways that your organization can maintain connections with your supporters and build relationships by expanding beyond standard solicitation efforts. These three strategies include:

  1. Send informative emails and messages.
  2. Provide additional involvement opportunities.
  3. Show appreciation for any type of support.

Your supporters drive your organization’s mission forward by providing the funding and moral support necessary to build your programs up. Don’t treat these vital individuals as ATMs. Instead, build relationships and expand your potential by following these strategies.

1. Send informative emails and messages.

When donors contribute to your cause, they’re not only giving money to your organization. They’re giving it in support of the mission you represent and the purpose of the campaign. They want to help build schools, lower pet adoption fees, and provide food to the homeless, not just give money to an organization.

Keeping this in mind, your supporters want more updates than simply what your next fundraising campaign will be and how they can help. They want information about how your programs are working, exciting new updates about your newest initiative, and success stories from those you’ve helped.

That’s why nonprofits should send regular updates to their supporters with information about their mission progress.

When you plan to send these updates to your loyal supporters, here are the tips we recommend:

  • Segment supporters by campaign. This will help provide insights into the programs that your supporters feel most passionately about so that you can personalize the message to focus on those particular programs. For example, if someone purchases a t-shirt that’s designed for a campaign supporting the medical needs of abandoned animals, you might draft an email with the success story of Butcher, the dog who received his vaccinations and found a forever home. To put the cherry on top, you might even include a photo of Butcher wearing a t-shirt with the same design as the ones sold in the campaign.
  • Personalize every email. When you send informative emails to your supporters, be sure to include the personal touches that you would also include in solicitation emails. Generic “dear donor” solicitations won’t make the cut. Leverage the donor data you have on hand to show donors the message is meant only for them. Start these emails with the supporter’s preferred name, then include it again somewhere in the middle of the email copy as an attention-grabber partway through. You could even include some details about the campaigns they supported in the past as well.

You might send a regular newsletter with some of this information in it, but we recommend taking this strategy a step further and sending additional updates as well, especially after a fundraising campaign.

After your fundraising campaign, you should follow up to say thank you to all of your donors who helped you reach your goal. Then, you should reach out again to provide updates on the progress of the program they helped support. Doing this opens up the opportunity to show them the impact of their contribution and allows you to demonstrate that you used their funding responsibly.

2. Provide additional involvement opportunities.

Informing donors about your organization’s progress helps you connect with them by simply showing impact. However, you can really strengthen those connections by providing additional ways for them to get involved that don’t require giving money.

This allows them to get involved and show their dedication without putting additional strain on their pockets. Down the line, these deep connections will result in additional contributions. We recommend focusing your attention on the following non-monetary involvement opportunities:

Advocacy Campaigns

Advocacy is a tangible way to encourage your supporters to get involved without asking them to contribute a dime. All they need to make a difference is their voices and time. You can influence local, state, and even national policies by asking supporters to sign petitions, call their legislators, and send emails or tweets.

When you host an advocacy campaign, ask supporters to get involved. Then, ask them to take it a step further by sharing the activities with their friends and family. They can send emails, share campaigns on social media, and even discuss the opportunities by word of mouth.

Volunteer Opportunities

Beyond giving monetary gifts to your cause, supporters can also contribute their time in order to make a difference. Ask supporters to volunteer their time working with your various programs or helping run your events. Then, be sure to reach out and thank them, telling them about the impact their time made.

You might even find that these contributions of time result in additional funding for your cause if your supporters are eligible for volunteer grants. These are donations of money contributed by some employers with corporate social responsibility programs when their employees volunteer a certain number of hours with eligible nonprofits. This is a fantastic way to further their impact without asking them to reach into their own wallets to donate.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers

One opportunity you might offer your supporters for volunteer work is to participate in your next peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. While these campaigns are often viewed as opportunities to expand your support network, it’s important to remember that the true champions of peer-to-peer fundraising are the supporters who volunteer their time and effort to raise funds on your organization’s behalf.

While this is a fundraiser, those who raise money on behalf of your cause don’t necessarily need to donate. Instead, they can volunteer their efforts and time. According to Bonfire’s peer-to-peer fundraising guide, here’s what these campaigns generally look like:

Partner with a t-shirt fundraising company like Bonfire for your next peer-to-peer fundraiser to take the campaign to the next level. That way, instead of asking for a normal donation, you can sell t-shirts along on the campaign pages, encouraging people to contribute more by providing additional incentive to do so.

3. Show appreciation for any type of support.

Staying connected and building relationships is a two-way street. It requires both give and take from your organization and your supporters. When you provide updates to your loyal supporters, they’ll be more likely to get involved. Then, once they get involved, you’ll need to turn back around and show your appreciation.

This appreciation is what shows your supporters that you care about them and their contributions really matter to the organization. Even after a big campaign, you can keep motivation high among your supporters when you show appreciation and the impact of their contributions.

No matter if supporters donate, volunteer, raise funds in a peer-to-peer campaign, or sign a petition, they’re still serving your organization, so you should be sure to show appreciation in ways that resonate with them. InitLive’s appreciation ideas guide offers several ways to say thank you to your supporters, including:

  • Providing free gifts like t-shirts, books, and goodie bags
  • Serving a luncheon or dinner for supporters
  • Hosting holiday celebration events
  • Shouting out supporters on your nonprofit’s social media page
  • Sending thank you letters to your valued supporters

Say thank you without any ulterior motive. Simply show your appreciation for everything that your supporters do for your organization and your mission. Then, you can encourage them to stay involved in all sorts of ways, such as with the non-monetary ideas listed above.


There’s a lot that goes into developing lasting relationships with supporters. The cycle follows the same few steps of supporters interacting with your organization and you responding with appreciation, information, and invitations to get involved time and time again. This cycle of interaction and open communication is what builds relationships between nonprofits and supporters, strengthening your support system and resulting in greater average lifetime values amongst supporters.


This article was contributed by Kevin Penney, CMO and Co-Founder at Bonfire.

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