Donor engagement strategies to drive nonprofit support

8 Donor Engagement Strategies to Drive Nonprofit Support

Nonprofits often rely on generous donors to help fund their mission programming, general overhead costs, and more. But an organization can’t expect to sit back and watch the revenue roll in without first establishing efforts in place to identify, build relationships with, and solicit donations from its supporters⁠—which is where donor engagement strategies come in.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through eight fantastic methods that have been known to drive nonprofit support by elevating engagement levels among contributors. These include:

  1. Matching gifts
  2. Google Ad Grants
  3. Peer-to-peer giving
  4. Volunteerism opportunities
  5. Donor appreciation
  6. Segmentation and personalization
  7. Unique fundraising ideas
  8. Powerful storytelling

By incorporating these tactics into your nonprofit donor engagement strategy, you can better connect with your supporters, who will be increasingly interested in supporting your fundraising initiatives over time.

1. Matching gifts

Matching gifts are an extremely popular type of corporate philanthropy, and they’re one that places individual donors at the heart of their employers’ giving strategies. Thus, they’re not only a corporate giving opportunity, but they simultaneously function as a top donor engagement strategy for your organization.

Here’s how these workplace giving programs typically work:

  1. An individual donor gives to your nonprofit.
  2. The donor is encouraged to look into their matching gift eligibility through their employer (typically by providing access to a matching gift database or directing them to contact the company directly).
  3. The donor, upon determining that their employer offers to match gifts, completes a quick online submission form to request their corporate donation match.
  4. The employer reviews the submission and verifies that the initial donation adheres to pre-determined matching criteria.
  5. A corporate matching donation is provided by the donor’s employer, ultimately leaving your organization with two gifts for the price of one.

Highlighting matching gift opportunities can be one of the most effective ways to engage your donors⁠—and there’s a ton of research to back this up. In fact, research shows that 84% of donors are more likely to donate if a match is offered, with 1 in 3 donors indicating they’d give a larger gift if matching is being applied.

Not to mention, following up with matching gift donors after their initial contribution provides nonprofits with an additional touch point with which to ensure their mission remains at the top of the donor’s mind for longer.

2. Google Ad Grants

If your nonprofit isn’t already leveraging Google Ad Grants in your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with existing and prospective donors alike. Here’s what this looks like for organizations looking to increase awareness and support for their missions:

  1. Google offers up to $10,000 in free advertising credits to eligible 501(c)(3) organizations per month.
  2. Your nonprofit leverages this in-kind advertising space to promote your cause and its fundraising efforts to supporters by targeting specific keywords.
  3. A (potential or existing) supporter conducts a Google search for a search term related to your nonprofit.
  4. Your nonprofit’s website shows up in the top spots on Google’s search engine results page.
  5. The supporter clicks through to your nonprofit’s site and decides to get involved with your cause, such as by making a donation.

Google Ad Grants are essential for increasing donor engagement on two key fronts⁠—attracting new supporters to your cause and providing additional engagement opportunities for existing supporters. By utilizing the free ad space made available by the number 1 search engine, your organization can easily put your cause in front of tons of new and recurring donors, opening up even more chances for building on those relationships.

3. Peer-to-peer giving

Peer-to-peer campaigns are a popular form of nonprofit fundraising for many reasons. Organizations hosting the campaigns are able to reach new donors (via existing supporters who take on a fundraising role for your nonprofit) while offering one of the most engaging ways for existing supporters to participate.

Supporters, equipped with customizable donation pages from the organization’s peer-to-peer platform, then reach out to their own networks of friends, family members, and more to solicit donations for a cause they care about. First-time donors are more likely to contribute when asked by a peer, rather than directly by your organization. That means this strategy enables your team to get in touch with new supporters you may not have won over on your own.

All the funding goes to your organization’s mission, and you’re left with a ton of donors who are highly engaged with the cause. From there, you can work to continue building your connection with new and existing individuals through additional donor engagement ideas. Who knows⁠—some of your brand new donors may be willing to take on a fundraising role of their own for your next peer giving campaign!

4. Volunteerism opportunities

Even your most dedicated donors don’t want their only communications with your team to be additional requests for funding. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to offer unique opportunities for involvement with your organization and its mission as a key way to further engage your donors.

And one of the best ways to do so is by encouraging donors to participate through volunteer opportunities! This can be an excellent way for donors to see your cause in a new light. Plus, getting a behind-the-scenes look through volunteerism can help inspire increased giving as well.

Not to mention, you can even monetize this engagement strategy by highlighting the potential for volunteer grants. Many donors (especially those previously determined to be eligible for matching gifts) will work for companies that provide financial support to the nonprofits their employees volunteer with. Encourage them to look into any volunteer grant programming offered by their employers to help stretch their contributions even further.

5. Donor appreciation

You probably know that it’s important to say thank you to your donors for their gifts. But do you know how important it is?

Two of the most common reasons why donors stop giving to nonprofit organizations they’ve supported in the past are 1) that they were never thanked for their gift and 2) that they were not informed about how the funding was being used. Both of these ideas together can lead a donor to believe that the nonprofit in question didn’t really need their donation in the first place⁠—and ultimately, a lack of donor engagement.

Luckily, effectively communicating appreciation for your donors can assist in solving all of the above problems. You’ll want to thank each individual donor for supporting your nonprofit with their hard-earned dollars. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it also helps close the loop and reiterate to the donor that their contribution was received and processed successfully. Plus, you can use it as an opportunity to emphasize your nonprofit’s cause and the specific way that the donor’s gift is able to help move your mission forward.

Bottom line? Appreciated donors are more likely to become and stay highly engaged with your organization.

6. Segmentation and personalization

Unfortunately, a donation appeal that begins with “Dear donor” or “to whom this may concern” and ends with a generic request of $5, $10, $25, or $50 is not likely to produce great results. That’s because it won’t elicit the emotional connections that are required for effective fundraising nowadays.

Why not? An effective ask needs to incorporate strategic segmentation and personalization⁠—two things that, when done well, can go particularly far in terms of donor engagement for your organization. It’s what makes a donation request feel like an intimate appeal to an essential partner in your organization’s mission (which, as you know, is what your donors are).

In order to drive engagement, all messaging should be segmented. Donors should be grouped by specific characteristics with other similar individuals to receive targeted information relevant to that slice of your network. This might be in relation to donation level (small, mid-size, or major donors), geographic region, communication preferences, and more.

Further, your communications should also be personalized to each individual. That may include addressing the recipient by name, referring to a donation recently received, or anything else that shows that the message was crafted just for them.

The more you segment and personalize your fundraising efforts, the more your asks will stand out to the individual, the more engaged they will be with your cause, and the more likely they are to partake in your intended response.

7. Unique fundraising ideas

Dedicated fundraising campaigns can be some of the best ways to connect with your organization’s donors and solicit generous gifts at the same time. However, if you go for the same old, same old “been there, done that” fundraising ideas, you’re likely to face more donor burnout than donor engagement.

That’s why choosing unique, exciting, and refreshing fundraisers is such an essential part of donor engagement! And that’s not saying you have to drop your tried-and-true fundraising ideas, either. Just try sprucing them up to make them stand out, and your audience will be more than happy to participate.

For example, do you host an annual charity auction event that does well each year? Consider adding a shiny, new theme⁠—or, even better, a virtual bidding component! Not to mention, similar ideas can be used to optimize your event-a-thons, galas, and more. And don’t forget to incorporate workplace giving opportunities alongside your favorite new fundraising ideas whenever possible!

8. Powerful storytelling

Finally, the story you tell about your nonprofit and its mission-related efforts is essential for securing, engaging, and retaining donor support.

In order to bring your strategic storytelling practices to the next level and inspire more supporters to get involved, it’s important to incorporate essential elements. This should include a group or person in need of aid (your organization’s beneficiaries), a compelling hero (your nonprofit team and the donors who support your work), and a key solution (what your organization does to make a difference). From there, you’ll also want to include supporting data, an emotional narrative, sensory details, and relevant imagery when possible.

The idea is that donors feel connected to the story and desire to play a role in the solution⁠—thus, supporting (or continuing to support) your organization in its work!

Final Thoughts on These Top Donor Engagement Strategies

Your donor base forms an essential component of your overall nonprofit organization, and their engagement with your cause is critical for continuous mission success. A highly engaged donor is more likely to contribute to your cause time and time again⁠—so you don’t want to settle for base-level efforts.

Luckily, utilizing donor engagement strategies like workplace giving promotions, strategic fundraising, cost-effective marketing, and more can make a huge difference. That means it’s time to begin incorporating these ideas into your nonprofit strategy and make sure you equip your team with the tools required to do so effectively!

Want to learn more about getting donors engaged with your nonprofit organization? Browse these additional Getting Attention resources to learn more: