Communicating with Supporters: 7 Strategies for Nonprofits

Communicating with Supporters: 7 Strategies for Nonprofits

Whether you’re updating donors on the status of your campaign or maintaining the engagement of new volunteers after an event, communication is key to securing their continued support. As such, you need a robust messaging and promotional strategy, beginning with communication best practices to engage your audience.

In this article, we’ll go over seven supporter communication strategies your nonprofit should leverage, including:

  1. Communicate through multiple channels.
  2. Change up your content.
  3. Encourage supporters to share information with peers.
  4. Ask your supporters for feedback.
  5. Show your appreciation.
  6. Use storytelling strategies
  7. Spread awareness about corporate giving opportunities

With a robust communication strategy, you can create messages that resonate and engage your supporters, leading to individuals that are more invested in your nonprofit’s success. 

1. Communicate through multiple channels.

To maximize your supporters’ chances of seeing your communications, leverage a multichannel marketing strategy. Messages can be sent through various channels, such as:

  • Your website: Your nonprofit’s website should be the central hub for your digital communications. Create separate pages for events, campaigns, and blog posts. Then, link back to these resources across your other channels.
  • Direct mail: Letters and flyers are great physical reminders for supporters, especially when hosting events local to where they are.
  • Email: Send regular updates, donation requests, and newsletters through email to keep supporters engaged and informed about your organization's activities and impact. Be sure to include a compelling subject line to ensure that recipients click on your message.
  • Text: SMS messaging is best suited for shorter messages, such as quick reminders about an upcoming event or a notification about a fundraising goal being met.
  • eCards: Digital greeting cards are a great way to thank supporters for their contributions and show them that you care.
  • Social media: Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok can be used to both provide information to existing supporters and followers as well as reach out to a wider audience.

Segment supporters based on their preferred communication channels to ensure that your messages reach them. For example, older, less technologically savvy supporters may appreciate direct mail and email communications. On the other hand, younger audiences including Gen Z may be more responsive to messages on TikTok or Instagram.

2. Change up your content.

As some say, variety is the spice of life—and it’s also the spice of your supporter communications. To encourage engagement, vary the messages that you send to supporters and cover an array of topics, such as:

  • Upcoming fundraising events: If your school is hosting a bake sale fundraiser, you could send a fun baking-themed eCard to invite your supporters to attend.
  • Campaign status: Announce that you’re about to kick off a new fundraising campaign or update supporters on the progress of your current campaign.
  • Success stories: Show supporters the impact you’re making on your beneficiaries’ lives by informing them of any success stories.
  • Volunteer opportunities: If there are open opportunities to volunteer for your organization, invite your supporters to come help out.
  • Relevant news: If your nonprofit is dedicated to building houses for individuals experiencing homelessness, you might share news about a recent earthquake and inform supporters that you are directing your aid toward individuals from that area.

Your supporters want to feel as though they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Regularly updating them on what’s happening with your nonprofit will lead to higher engagement from your supporters, which results in a higher retention rate. According to eCardWidget, this will help to future-proof your operations and help build a positive reputation.

3. Encourage supporters to share information with peers.

To keep your nonprofit top-of-mind without bombarding your mailing list with messages, encourage supporters to share information about your organization with their friends and family. Not only does this lead to greater outreach, as you’ll have access to your supporters’ networks, but it also leads to increased social proof.

When given the opportunity, your supporters can be your nonprofit’s biggest advocates—and they’re happy to help out because they believe in your mission. Ask them to share news, event invitations, and other messages about your nonprofit in conversations or even on social media to help boost your visibility.

You can also foster a sense of community by creating events based on supporters communicating with one another and working together, such as through a peer-to-peer fundraising event. Alternatively, you could host a team fundraising event such as a dodgeball tournament or a pledge fundraising campaign like a walk-a-thon.

4. Ask your supporters for feedback.

Since you rely on the generosity of supporters to pursue your mission, you want to ensure that you are moving in a direction that they would be happy with. To do so, ask your supporters for their opinion and solicit feedback about what they want to see from your nonprofit.

This could involve sending an event feedback survey to ask how you can improve upon your next event or posting a poll on social media asking supporters which channels they prefer to be contacted through.

When you ask your supporters for feedback, be sure to genuinely consider their opinions. Objectively evaluate their suggestions and implement those that will help better your nonprofit’s operations. This will show your supporters that you genuinely value their input and that you want to do better and provide a better experience for them.

5. Show your appreciation.

Sending messages centered on donor appreciation should already be a part of your nonprofit’s communications strategy. However, donors aren’t the only supporters that deserve to be appreciated and recognized—all of them do, for a variety of reasons. Outside of donor thank-you messages, you can also send appreciation communications for:

  • Volunteering: As nonprofits are often understaffed, volunteers can make a huge difference when it comes to operations and events. Make sure to show your gratitude towards supporters that volunteer to help your nonprofit.
  • Event attendance: At the conclusion of an event, send a thank-you email or text to attendees to show that you appreciate their engagement.
  • Meeting a goal: Acknowledge the role that your supporters played in helping you meet your goal, whether financially or through other means. For example, if you are an animal shelter that just rehomed twenty puppies, thank supporters who adopted puppies and those who helped foster them.
  • Special occasions: During holidays or birthdays, let your supporters know that you’re thinking of them and wish them well.

You can also send gifts to reinforce your gratitude to your supporters. re:Charity suggests that you send gifts like bookmarks, tote bags, or branded apparel to supporters to demonstrate your appreciation. For supporters that have invested a larger amount of time or money, such as major donors, you can send higher-cost gifts such as gift baskets, engraved plaques, or even thank-you videos.

6. Use storytelling strategies.

Don’t only think about what you’re communicating to supporters, but also consider how you’re communicating it. While you may think a fundraising email is just an email, there’s much you can do to make your messages stand out with cohesive storytelling.

Storytelling in nonprofit communications is more than relaying anecdotes from staff and beneficiaries. It also includes:

  • Invoking emotion. There’s a difference between a fundraising request that says, “Please donate to our cause,” and one that reads, “Your donations help build the future for generations to come.” Use language that invokes emotions in your supporters that will spur them to action.
  • Centering specific actors. In your communication with supporters, who is the main character? Is it your nonprofit, donors, beneficiaries, or another group? Who you choose as the primary actors in your messages creates different impressions on readers. For example, is your nonprofit achieving its goals with the help of donors, or are donors helping your cause through your nonprofit?
  • Visuals. Be thoughtful about what images you pair with which messages. Just like with your language choices, consider what emotions your images will invoke and if those emotions connect with what the rest of your message is trying to convey.

Storytelling strategies can be applied to all sorts of nonprofit communications. From emails and social media posts to text on your website, every piece of external communication is an opportunity to tell your supporters a story about your cause.

7. Spread awareness about corporate giving opportunities.

Companies host corporate giving programs for all sorts of reasons, and your nonprofit likely has more than a few supporters who qualify for one of these initiatives. Certain corporate giving programs, like matching gift programs, allow supporters to double or even triple their contributions to your nonprofit through donations from their employers. This means they can give more to your nonprofit without spending more.

However, only 8% of donors know about their company’s matching gift program, whether they qualify, and how to apply. With the remaining 92% of donors in the dark about how to access corporate giving opportunities, nonprofits should consider adding education about matching gifts to their communication cadence.

Generally speaking, there are three types of messages nonprofits will send supporters related to matching gifts. These include:

  • Eligibility alert. After a supporter donates, get in touch with them to let them know about the power of matching gifts and encourage them to check if they qualify. Nonprofits that use matching gift software have access to relevant databases that can confirm donors’ eligibility. For these nonprofits, rather than asking the supporter to research their eligibility, they reach out to let donors know they qualify.
  • Application follow-up. If a supporter is dragging their feet on filling out a matching gift application, send a follow-up message to check-in. This should be a friendly reminder that emphasizes the potential impact the support could make if they got their donation matched.
  • Application acknowledgment. Once a donor submits their matching gift application, thank them for the extra effort they took to support your nonprofit.

Additionally, work general educational information about matching gifts into your normal messaging cadence. For example, you might add an informational section to your email newsletter about corporate giving programs or make posts on social media highlighting statistics about the impact of matching gifts.

Your supporters are crucial to the continued success of your operations, so continuously engage with them and keep them interested in what your nonprofit is up to. Leveling up your communications plan with these strategies will lead to their increased trust and loyalty.

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