Donor Relationship Building

How to build stronger donor relationships is a problem that vexes many non-profit organizations. These tips for donor relationship building highlight ten ways to improve your donor management and retention by giving people what they want, so that your non-profit gets what it needs in return.

Donor Relationship Building

Building better donor relationships can take time, but there’s no better time to begin improving your relationships than right now. And there’s no better way to start than to stop thinking of them as funding sources and start thinking of them as real people – people who care deeply enough about what you’re doing to make a donation to help your cause.

Master copywriter and fundraising consultant Alan Sharpe provides some sage advice on donor relationship best practices in this guest article below.

Give Your Donors What They Want So Your Non-Profit Gets What It Wants

The secret to building long-term, profitable, mutually beneficial relationships with donors is to think the way donors think.

Here are some ways to see your donors as people and not pocketbooks. Understanding how your donors think is your key to helping them — and you — make a measurable difference in the world.

Donor Relationship Best Practices

Say thank you early and often – Thank your donors promptly and personally every time they mail you a gift.

Provide proof positive that you do what you say – Describe how you are using the donor’s last gift the way the donor intended. The majority of long-term, faithful donors give to make a difference, and many will not give again until they know their last gift was put to good use the way they wanted-so show ample proof.

Describe a donations ROI – Treat your donors as thoughtful investors who care how their money is spent.

Use long-term strategies – Don’t appeal to short-term motivators, such as fear, that raise plenty of short-term funds but not enough long-term friends.

Provide quality insights – Give your donors enough information to make an informed opinion about giving. Anticipate the questions and objections that thoughtful people will raise about your organization, your mission and your ask, and answer them in your letter.

Help your donors solve a problem – Donors will not throw money at an impossible situation. They need to have hope that their donation will meet a need. So offer hope.

Don’t promote future tax benefits alone – Instead, stress the difference a donation makes in lives changed and problems solved today. You want donors who believe in your cause, who want to help others more than they help themselves.

Invite your donors to help change the world – Instead of asking for funds that your organization needs, invite donors to accomplish their goals by making the world a better place (by mailing you a gift).

Think long term – Raising money with mail is a long-term commitment that you need to make to your organization and to your donors. You and I could put together a tear-jerking, guilt-inducing package that manipulated donors into parting with large sums of money, but those kinds of appeals are not sustainable year after year. Take the long-term view.

Remember that your donors are people and that people give to people to help people – This basic fundraising truth means that you must state your organizational needs in human terms whenever possible. “Human interest sells,” as Mal Warwick puts it.

Keep it real – You must translate your case for support from non-profit-speak into flesh and blood. Donors want to know how their gift will help people. So give your donors what they want-heart-warming stories about people in need, and how you help them thanks to your donors’ generosity.

About The Author
Alan Sharpe, CFRE, is a fundraising consultant, author, trainer and speaker. He serves as Senior Strategist at Harvey McKinnon Associates, the full-service fundraising agency specializing in direct mail and monthly giving for the nonprofit sector. Through his weekly newsletter, books, handbooks and workshops, Alan helps not-for-profit organizations worldwide to acquire more donors, raise more funds and build stronger relationships. Sign up for “Sharpe Tips,” Alan’s free, weekly, email newsletter, at

More Donor Relationship Management Advice

Donor Retention Best Practices – The vast majority of non-profit organizations do not follow donor retention best practices. The Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy reported in 2013 on the dismal donor retention statistics evidenced in a study of 1.8 million donors.

Give Donors What They Want – The secret to getting donations for your non-profit is to give donors what they want. People give to causes to make a difference in others lives. And what donors really want to know is how their donation will help people.

Fundraising Letters Should Raise Donors, Not Donations – Not all fundraising letters should be about raising money. Every non-profit fundraising campaign should also mail donor acquisition letters to attract new donors.

How To Get More Donations – In all types of fundraising you are essentially making a donation request. So, what do you say or do to get more donations for your cause? Answer one simple question. “How will my donation change the world?”