Having spent the last year working at a non-profit organization, I know first hand the importance of donors and volunteers - these are the people that make it all happen. Not only do they provide the funding and resources to continue to drive the mission, but they bring a passion and energy that ignites my colleagues and I. In the midst of trying to grow an organization, many leaders of nonprofits get so busy with other things and they forget to prioritize their relationships with their donors and volunteers. A strong relationship with the people who donate their time and money to help your nonprofit is vital to the growth and longevity of your organization.
So how can you strengthen your relationship with your donors and volunteers? First, you need to understand what motivates your donors and volunteers and what does not. Why do these people spend their time or give a significant amount of money to your organization?
At large, people donate to or volunteer at nonprofit organizations because doing good makes them feel good. Scientific studies have actually proven that generosity stimulates dopamine, which creates similar brain activity in the regions connected to the experience of pleasure and reward. However, other things contribute to this want to donate time and money. Oftentimes, your donors and volunteers are mission-driven; they see the need for the work of your nonprofit in their community, and they feel compelled to help. Other times, donors and volunteers have a personal connection to your cause; For example, if your nonprofit organization supports cancer research, maybe a donor or volunteer has been touched personally by the devastating disease and that is why they feel compelled to help.
On the flip-side, it is important to determine the reasoning as to why donors and volunteers stop giving their time and money. The number one reason why donors stop giving is because they do not know how their money is being used. If someone decides to donate a significant amount of money to your organization, they want to know that it is being used to serve the mission. In fact, a study from the Millennial Impact Report claimed that 77% of donors would be likely to stop giving to a nonprofit if they did not feel like the donation was making an impact. Transparency is key, so make sure that your nonprofit organization is sharing where exactly the donor’s money is going.
So what are some ways you can build and maintain your relationship with your donor and volunteer base? Here are a few ideas:
1. Say THANK YOU - Write a handwritten thank you note to your donors and volunteers. While it may be a small gesture, a handwritten note can go a long way. Make sure your donors know that you appreciate their time and contributions.
2. Utilize Social Media - Social Media is a powerful tool that should be used by all nonprofit organizations. Use different platforms to showcase the awesome things your organization is doing. If donors and volunteers want transparency to where their money is going, then use the power of social media to show photos and videos of what your organization is up to.
3. Ask your donors and volunteers questions - Your donor and volunteer base obviously care about your organization, so give them the opportunity to provide their insight into what they think your organization could be doing better or ways that you could improve.
Most importantly though, remember that your donors and volunteers are more than just a name on a check and a participant in a charitable activity; they see the vision of your mission and they want your nonprofit organization to succeed. Author Tom Ahern said it best: “Donors are not ATM machines. I don't think successful fundraising is about keeping the staff paid and the lights burning. It’s far more about giving your donors a vivid sense that they’re changing the world.”