Donor Relationships: 7 Ways to Build Yours Up

Donor Relationships: 7 Ways to Build Yours Up

February 14 is a day of love in America, the perfect time to show appreciation and build donor relationships. After all, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic love–it is also about our love and appreciation for all the important people who support us in our personal and professional endeavors.

The expressions of gratitude don’t have to be a pound of handcrafted dark chocolates, a bouquet of red roses or other extravagances. Simply dial back to your days as a schoolchild, when that single valentine from a special classmate or a box of conversation hearts (which are back in 2020 thanks to Spangler Candy, the company that revived the brand after its creator went bankrupt) made Valentine’s Day extra special.

Mid-February makes sense for follow-up thanks

When you think about it, Valentine’s Day is well-timed for a follow-up thank-you to donors who gave to your year-end fundraising appeal. Of course, you’ve already thanked them once, right after their gift was received, but it never hurts to express our gratitude multiple ways and multiple times. The holiday also tends to spark creativity–maybe it’s all that red or all those hearts or eating so much chocolate. No matter, whether you go traditional and send a card or contemporary with social media or e-cards, there are many ways to say “We love you” to your donors.

1. Send a red heart–the power of paper valentines

No matter our age, we get as excited as second-graders when we see a red envelope in the mail in February. Valentine’s cards don’t need to be fancy or expensive. The holiday’s traditional red and pink make for fun, striking designs that grab attention. You can go in other directions–maybe opt for a design inspired by 1950s advertising or fancy things up with calligraphy or glitter. Messages can be short and sweet, like the day itself. “We love donors like you.” “Because of you, children have books to read. We love you!” “You’re special to us.”

2. Make your card more playful

Look to Valentine’s cards for kids as inspiration. Add a fun element like a silly joke, riddle or even a maze that is somehow connected to your nonprofit. Channel your inner child and make the holiday fun and touching for your donors.

3. Make it a short and sweet postcard

What’s short, sweet and simple? A Valentine’s Day postcard. Use a colorful photo — kids with the new books your nonprofit delivered to them or a volunteer crew out doing maintenance on a trail in the nature preserve that your organization supports. Make sure your card doesn’t get overlooked in the mail by using a size that stands out from letter-size envelopes.

4. Use a letter to tell a heart-warming tale

What better time to share a heart-warming story or two about the work your donors are supporting than Valentine’s Day? Stories of successes reassure donors that their donations are valuable. When you gather stories throughout the year, you also can use them in a lot of ways–your newsletter, your annual report, on Facebook posts. A nice, long and well-told story in a letter format though will get a lot of reads, especially if you add some compelling photography. Donor relationships are built through consistent communication that provides a feeling of connection to your cause.

5. An e-card shows love too

Rather send your Valentine’s message by email? There are plenty of ways to do it. Sending a card you design in-house is the most original, and it allows you to use pictures of people or places your nonprofit serves, but if that’s not doable because of time or staff limitations, a number of e-card companies make it easy to chose a template and design and send a customized card. An ecard can be a speedy solution if you’ve been swamped since the new year began and February has snuck up on you. After you’ve created a e-Valentine’s Day card, post it too on your website and share it on social media, your Pinterest board, Instagram and other social platforms.

6. Send a “We love you” video

You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to send a heart-warming YouTube or Vimeo video. The fact that many homemade videos go viral shows all you need is a compelling subject or a quirky approach. Depending on your nonprofit’s mission, there’s probably a screen worthy way to show donors how much you appreciate them. Try testimonials or thank-yous — anything from senior citizens clapping their hands when Meals on Wheels’ volunteers arrive with lunch to a bunch of tail-wagging dogs meeting their new families. Videos capture moments and relay emotions that words don’t always convey. And, after a video is shot, it can be used myriad ways–on a website, Facebook emailed to your supporters.

7. Have a Sweetheart of an evening

Invite donors to your office for an old-fashioned Valentine’s Day Party, with heart-shaped cookies, iced cupcakes, and some sparkling cider or champagne. Building out your donor relationships is worth it. Take the evening up a notch by hiring local talent to sing popular love songs or hire a poet to read sonnets and romantic poems. A thank-a-thon is another fun idea to build around the February 14th holiday–have staff and board members spend an hour one evening around Valentine’s Day calling 5-10 donors to thank them for their support. Reward the crew with heart-shaped pizzas and chocolate desserts. You might want to avoid the actual holiday for this one though, as many people will be going out to have dinner or see a movie to celebrate the holiday.

And speaking of love, we’d love to help you with any of your donor relationships communication needs–from writing, testing and designing fund-raising letters to creating a social media campaign. Give us a call.

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