According to NXUnite’s Nonprofit Fundraising Training guide, written and oral communication are two of the most important skills that any fundraising professional must have. While it might seem obvious, communication is at the core of fundraising, and nonprofit professionals should constantly be working to better their communication skills. 

Communication, and donor communication in particular, is essential to gaining supporters for your mission— if potential donors do not understand what your nonprofit does or how they can support it, then all of your nonprofit’s efforts will be wasted.

In September, Marc Pitman, CEO of Concord Leadership Group, was joined by Charlotte Fedders at EverTrue, Joe Duca at OneCause, and Lynne Wester at Donor Relations Guru for NXUnite’s “More Than a Call for Donations: Donor Communication Strategies and Why It’s Important.” The panelists encouraged the audience to focus on their mission first and foremost within donor communications, being confident in their missions without being afraid to take risks while, at the same time, remaining intentional about how often to communicate with donors and through which channels.

Listen, Learn, and Focus on Your Mission

According to Marc, donor communication is “not about you; it’s not about your nonprofit; it’s not about your spiel;” it’s about human connection. Once nonprofit professionals understand that donors and potential donors are fellow humans hoping to help other humans and better the world we all live in, then they can begin listening to what these donors have to say.

According to Marc, donor communication is “not about you; it’s not about your nonprofit; it’s not about your spiel;” it’s about human connection.

If you want to learn more about your donors and how they’d be willing to support your mission, “Ask!” Marc stated that it’s essential to sit down with donors and really have a conversation with them. These conversations don’t have to be confident or stressful, and nonprofit professionals should maintain a certain confidence in the fact that donors care about your mission and want to hear more about it.

But ultimately, Marc said, donor communications shouldn’t be centered around the donors themselves. Instead, your nonprofit should find the space where donors’ interests and values align with those of your mission. This way, you’ll ensure that the work that your nonprofit does always comes back to the mission.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail or Take Risks

As nonprofits prepare for the future, it can feel overwhelming— we’ve been through a pandemic, each generation has different interests, and technology is evolving so quickly it can be difficult to keep up. But, Marc assured his audience, the future is where your donors are, and your donors are what’s actually gonna move the mission forward. Don’t get caught up in the frenzy of all the new tools and trends because you can’t do everything, even if you want to. Maybe you don’t need a Tiktok account or a flashy billboard, especially if this isn’t what your donors want.

What’s more, nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid to communicate with their donors. While you don’t need to do everything, your team shouldn’t be afraid to try new things! Let your communications team fail, test new things, and see what works. As OneCause states in the results of their Donor Experience Survey, “It’s important that the giving experience evolves and keeps pace with changing donor expectations.” So try new things, figure out what works, don’t be afraid to evolve, and stay flexible if you do fail.

Be intentional

When asked how often nonprofits should be communicating with donors, Marc noted that there’s more tolerance from donors in being communicated with than we might think. Just as your communication team should be willing to fail, you should also be willing to feel like you’re doing too much. It’s better to thank your donors “too much” than not enough!

However, nonprofits shouldn’t communicate with donors often just because. Instead, they should be intentional with each communication. Joe suggested segmenting donors as a way to better understand them and personalize your communications to particular audiences. Be sure, Joe went on, that your organization isn’t pummeling with emails that won’t get read or huge chunks of mail that will get thrown away. Instead, send a simple postcard that is quick to read or a text update about a really exciting project your organization is working on. 

Panelists on NXUnite’s “More Than a Call for Donations: Donor Communication Strategies and Why It’s Important” discussed donor communication, boiling all its complexities and nuances down to 3 key points: 

  1. Listen to your donors but center your mission first
  2. Take risks in your communication but don’t forget your organization’s capacities
  3. Make sure your communications are useful to your donors.

Donors are the backbone of every nonprofit organization, but your nonprofit’s mission is the heart. Thank your donors and don’t forget how important they are, but at the same time, allow your mission to guide everything that you do because, ultimately, your mission is what draws your donors in and keeps them around.

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