Keep your donors in the loop

Building trust with the public is key to being a successful nonprofit, from using certified payment processing for online donations to having clearly-stated objectives. However, a not-for-profit also needs to maintain regular communication with its donor base, essentially offering customer service and a chance to provide feedback.

When customers give money to a for-profit business they expect something in return along with capable customer service. Why shouldn't donors receive the same treatment from regularly giving to a nonprofit? This is a question asked by both The Nonprofit Times and Pamela Grow, author of "The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits."

Surveying givers and former donors regarding their opinions about the nonprofit, and what the organization can do better can get the conversation started, according to Grow. It will also encourage regular feedback from donors not-for-profits can use to hone future communication, according to Nonprofit Quarterly.

Cutting donor fatigue
Regularly polling donors about what they want to see from the not-for-profit can help limit donor fatigue. When donors receive too many frequent pleas for donations, they inevitably cut ties with the organization, Amy Butcher wrote in Nonprofit Quarterly. Too much solicitation for donations can make them wary, The Glove and Mail wrote. 

"There is certainly much more competition these days for people's donation dollars," Cathy Barr, senior vice president of Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization that assists the country's not-for-profits, told The Globe and Mail. 

Nonprofits must find a happy medium between donor fatigue and only communicating with their communities when they need money, according to Nonprofit Quarterly. Issuing brochures that explain the impact of donor funds or mailing small, inexpensive gifts, such as bookmarks, will show the public that a nonprofit cares.

In the loop
By surveying its donor base, a nonprofit may find what kind and how much communication is needed to keep the public empathetic to its cause.

Feedback and customer service are two great ways to keep donors happy and abreast of activities. The customer service aspect also keeps donors informed about the nonprofit's latest goals and how donor money will make an impact.

The majority of donors want to know what their donations are going toward, according to a Charities Aid Foundation study from the United Kingdom. 

The survey found 81 percent of people wanted some form of communication from a nonprofit they donated to. Meanwhile, 68 percent wanted to know how the organization was making an difference in the community and 54 percent wanted to know how their individual donations were spent.

"The motivations, behaviors and motivational factors behind philanthropic giving are very complex," Karla A. Williams wrote in "Donor Focused Strategies for Annual Giving," a book cited by Nonprofit Quarterly. "Gifts, at least the significant ones, are thoughtfully decided on, they reflect a donor's personal values, are influenced by a relationship, and are in response to an effective external motivator."

Therefore, it makes perfect sense for nonprofits to provide their donor base with the kind of information, communication and customer support donors  desire. Doing so proves not-for-profits can be proper stewards of donor money and the funds are being put to responsible use. While it pays to process donor contributions safely and securely via donor management software and online donation forms, it's just as crucial that nonprofits allow two-way communication with their public.

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