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5 Ways a Nonprofit Can Improve Engagement with Potential Donors

March 29, 2022 (4 min read)

Your fundraising success depends on the effectiveness of your donor engagement

Not so long ago, an “effective” donor engagement was defined as one that resulted in a single contribution from a prospect. This engagement might have consisted of an email or letter. And no matter how diverse or unique the potential donor may have been from all the others, they received essentially the same appeal asking for a donation as everyone else. In other words, the content was built on campaign message points instead of intimate knowledge of the donor.

But times have changed. With much greater access to vast amounts of donor data the best performing nonprofits now define effective donor engagement as one that does more than achieve a donation for a particular campaign; rather, it’s one that succeeds in making use of an individual’s donation history, personal achievements, and life events to cultivate a relationship that extends beyond being transactional in nature.

So how can your nonprofit improve donor engagement to turn what would otherwise be a one-time contribution into a long and beneficial relationship? Here are 5 ways you can achieve effective donor engagement and drive greater fundraising success! 

1. Tell your campaign story in context of a donor’s beliefs and values

Each donor views the world a bit differently. Whether you’re reaching out to a prospective donor for the very first time or connecting with a prospect who’s given to your nonprofit in the past, your campaign’s story should be tailored to appeal to that individual’s personal beliefs.

This is where creating a story hierarchy can come in handy. If you had to list out the top 5 reasons someone should donate to your nonprofit’s campaign, what would those reasons be? Once you’ve settled on what they are, then your messaging can lead with whichever reason you believe would appeal to each prospective donor the most.

2. Engage in the way a donor prefers – and keep donor contacts up to date!

Some donors prefer email. Others want a text message. But how do you know a donor’s preference? If you’re keeping a detailed history of donor engagement, you can see which engagement methods fall flat with a donor and which ones resulted in a contribution to your nonprofit. Knowing which engagement works best on a donor enables you to segment your prospects by engagement method, so you’re no longer attempting to reach everyone through the same broad approach. Instead, your engagement becomes that much more refined and personalized.

You should also make sure you keep contact information up to date. If a donor prefers text, you’ll need to know if that donor ever changes their primary phone number. The same goes for a donor’s email, mailing address, etc.

3. Report to them the difference their donation is making

The most effective engagement extends beyond a single contribution. Donors give money to nonprofits because they want to make a difference in some way. And they may feel less inclined to donate in the future if they don’t see the impact their previous donations made.

Luckily, there is no shortage of ways to show someone how their donation was used. A monthly, quarterly, or yearly letter (or any other method of communication) is a great method for sharing how a donor’s money was applied to your cause. Pictures and even specific success stories can remind the donor that they really are making a difference. And the more you can remind them, the more motivated they may become to donate again and again.

4. Keep the line of communication with your donors open

Like any relationship, fostering trust and appreciation with your donors takes effort. The more informed you are of a donor’s personal and professional life events, the easier it is for you to stay in touch organically. Did a donor get a promotion or a new job opportunity? Send a note congratulation them. Did they celebrate an anniversary or birthday? Let them know you’re thinking of them with a small gift.

It’s perfectly acceptable to even just reach out from time to time with the latest developments from your nonprofit. This shows that you’re interested in keeping them informed without necessarily asking for a contribution.

5. Take full advantage of third-party donor data – and your own internal donor database

Of course, the one key ingredient needed to tell a compelling campaign story to a prospective donor, engage them based on their own preferences, and build a strong relationship with them is donor data. This includes not only your own donor database, but also a wealth of third-party data you can use for your donor analytics and research.

Nexis® for Development Professionals grants access to news, company, and public records information, which you can then harness to learn about each and every donor on a much more granular level. You can conduct thorough and highly accurate wealth screening to learn just how much money you should ask a donor to contribute. Craft a campaign story finetuned to resonate with a donor according to their beliefs and values. And stay up to date on a donor’s life events for opportunities to engage, congratulate, and spark conversation.

With Nexis for Development Professionals, you can also take advantage of Batch Services to verify your records and fill in knowledge gaps on current and prospective donors. You’ll learn more about current donors than you ever thought possible, discover new donors to engage with, and gain insight into how to best approach each one in a personalized, effective way.


Drive greater fundraising success with highly effective donor engagement. Learn more about Nexis for Develop Professionals here.