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Donor Participation Project

The Importance of Donor Engagement: How Nonprofits Can Build Meaningful Relationships

Nonprofit fundraisers know that donor engagement is key to building long-lasting relationships and securing major gifts. Engaged donors who feel a strong connection to an organization’s mission are more likely to give generously and consistently over time.

According to research from the Donor Participation Project, the more involved donors are, the more they tend to donate.

While thanking and recognizing donors is important, true engagement goes deeper. Organizations must make donors feel like partners in achieving impact.

How can nonprofits effectively engage their donors?

  • First, they need a compelling vision and case for support to inspire donors. Donors want to contribute to organizations that have a clear vision for change.
  • Second, organizations should develop a range of strategic engagement opportunities at varying levels of involvement. For example, they can invite donors to exclusive events, join a donor committee, or provide input on new programs.
  • Third, nonprofits must report impact to show donors the difference they are making. But reports alone are not enough. Organizations should share impact through meaningful experiences, like videos, site visits, or meetings with program beneficiaries.
  • Fourth, nonprofits should take the time to get to know their donors‘ interests, motivations, and values. Then, they can tailor engagement and stewardship to match donors’ passions. This requires listening, asking thoughtful questions, and being genuinely curious about donors and their stories.
  • Finally, nonprofit leaders and fundraisers should reframe how they speak about donors using language that emphasizes partnership and collaboration. Terms like “prospects” and “low-hanging fruit” can alienate donors and should be avoided.

Building authentic relationships is essential for nonprofits to achieve their missions. By prioritizing donor engagement, organizations can cultivate true partnerships and turn supporters into champions for their cause. Overall, donor engagement requires strategy, personalization, and a commitment to understanding donors as human partners on a shared journey.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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