5 Common Post-Donation Communication Mistakes to Fix Now

Christine Ward
March 25, 2021

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Looking at donor retention stats and the costs associated with recruiting new donors, it makes sense to prioritize post-donation communications. It’s much easier and less expensive to convince a past donor who has already shown their connection to your cause and willingness to give than it is to reach someone who has never given and may not even know who you are or what you do.

Are you reaching out to past donors on a regular basis to stay top of mind? Or are you leaving that money on the table?

Create a Donor Communication Strategy

The mistakes that I’ll outline in this article are based on what’s in your donor communication strategy - your plan for keeping in touch with donors after they give in the hopes of convincing them to give again. It’s more than a receipt for their gift directly after it happens, but rather an ongoing communications plan to stay top of mind.

And if you don’t have a plan for reaching out to donors, it’s time to create one. A solid donor communication strategy is the first step to standardizing your process after a donation is made. Plan out things like how often, when and with what messaging you’ll reach out to previous donors so that no one falls through the cracks.

An Integral Piece of Your Donation Process

Your post-donation communications are part of a larger donation process or donor flow that each of your donors works through, from the content that inspires them to give through your donate page and donation form to everything that happens after they give.

As you get comfortable with executing your strategy and get to know your donors better, you can begin adding complications and optimizing your donor flow based on what donors are responding to and what they’re not. To see if your current process is up to snuff,  use a tool like the Donor Flow Optimizer to grade what you’re doing and identify quick wins to help you raise more money.

Post-Donation Communication Mistakes

Even if you’re responding to donors after they contribute, make sure you’re not making any of these common post-donation communication mistakes.

We see these five post-donation communication mistakes all the time.

Forgetting About Digital Marketing Channels

Print and email are not the only ways to communicate with a donor after their gift. If you’re only reaching out to previous donors through traditional print and email communications, there’s a good chance you’re missing some folks. Channels that you use to reach out to people through your marketing plan should also be incorporated into donor communications.

There is one exception to this mistake. If your supporter has indicated how they prefer to be contacted, whether through a survey, discussion or other communication, you should respect their preferences. 

Don’t Discount Social Media

That means communicating with donors on social media, too! A good chunk of your donors are on social media, many even on a daily basis. According to the 2020 Global Trends in Giving Report, 18% of Canadian and US donors said that social media is the communication tool that most inspires them to give (coming in third behind email at 33% of donors and print at 19%).

Your social media strategy should include regular interaction with supporters. And if you’re planning a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or social media ambassador program, these folks that you’re already communicating with will be your go-to people.

No Long-Term Follow-Up

Make a game plan for the long run. You send the receipt and then a thank you email and then what? If your answer is nothing, then you’re leaving potential future donations on the table.

Following up weeks or months later with the results and impact of their gift drives home the importance of the gift and makes them more likely to give in the future, potentially at a higher dollar amount.

Don’t stop after just a few touch points. Determine the sweet spot for reaching out to different types of donors with varying messaging, updates, appreciation and asks on an ongoing basis. Depending on the information you keep in your donor database,  it may be possible to automate many of these touch points.

Boring, Generic or Repetitive Emails

If no one is opening or clicking in your emails, you may have a content problem. No one wants to read boring or repetitive updates. That includes things like:

  • A press releases that reads like a press release
  • Long-winded fundraising appeals written for print
  • Announcements of new board members or internal projects
  • Messages that are too broad or that don’t speak directly to the interests of the reader

Instead of focusing on your organization, shift the focus to your mission, impact and vision of the future. Frame your donors as the heroes of the story and use the words “you” and “yours” more than you use “me”, “us”,  and “ours.” Make the most out of your emails to donors with clear, interesting and engaging content about your mission and their part in it.

Lots of organizations just place their donors on the general newsletter list and call it a day. But using a donor persona to drive better content decisions can deepen relationships with donors and create lifelong supporters in ways that your newsletter is ill-equipped (and not designed) to foster.

Lack of Personalization

Your donors should know that you know who they are and how they’ve contributed to your mission. That means personalizing all of your donor communications (and really, all of your communications in general). Start by using their first name and layer on additional personal points through segmentation.

Send messages to different donor segments based on gift size, geographic location, whether they gave during a particular campaign or signed up for recurring donations, etc. Use your donor management system to target the right people with the right message at the right time.

Your Strategies Don’t Talk to Each Other

Finally, it’s important to make sure that your communications and marketing strategies consider your fundraising strategy, and vice versa. Sending similar messages to these key folks through standard marketing outreach can really throw a wrench in things (see notes on boring/repetitive emails above).

You want a donor communications strategy that takes all of your other communications, strategies, channels and ladder of engagement into account. While that can be a lot to untangle at the start, a streamlined and consistent post-donation communications approach that keeps donors giving again and again is in reach. Start small with a simple path that considers your main donor personas and add complications through segmentation and optimization as you gain confidence with the process.

Are you making any of these common post-donation communications mistakes? Do you have questions about building out a comprehensive plan or untangling all of your various communications? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

This guest post was contributed by Christine Ward. Christine Ward is a content strategist at Wired Impact and can talk about nonprofit marketing all day long. She helps nonprofits build websites that drive growth and create digital marketing strategies to reach lofty goals.


Digital Fundraising Checklist

Topics: Donor Management
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