3 Effective Nonprofit Donor Engagement Strategies

Building relationships, focusing on communication, and listening can help improve donor engagement and retention.

Your donors are the heart of your organization. As they put time, resources, and funding behind your mission, it’s important that you ensure they feel valued, appreciated, and engaged.

“Having happy donors is key, because happy donors are typically engaged donors, and engaged donors are more committed to your program and your mission. Typically, that comes in the form of donations, time, and being an advocate for the mission of the organization,” says Kevin Phillips, Senior Vice President, Endowments and Foundations at Regions Bank.

There are plenty of ways to engage your organization’s donors and show appreciation, whether your donor engagement plan includes gifts, thank you cards, or exclusive events. Regardless of how you connect with your donors, there are a few important nonprofit donor engagement strategies that can guide organizations toward maintaining happy, engaged donors who are eager to help grow your endowment fund.

Build Intentional Relationships

Whether your organization has an entire team dedicated to donor relations or you have just one or two people in charge of the effort, taking the time to form meaningful relationships with individual donors is a great first step to showing your appreciation.

“There’s no magic wand,” Phillips explains, “it’s about building relationships. That’s the key to creating happy donors.”

When supporters have a personal connection to a board member, CEO, or other team member at the organization, they can feel closer to the cause. “The times when they can have a personal conversation and tell you what motivates them, why they’re here, and what they’d like to see go a long way,” Phillips says.

While there are lots of ways to build relationships with donors, one of the best things you can do is use a personal touch. Don’t be afraid to take notes during your conversations so that you can remember personal details about your core supporters. By donating, supporters are taking an interest in your cause. In return, show that you take an interest in them.

Focus on Communication

You already know that communicating with supporters on a regular basis can help keep them connected to your organization and its mission. But in order to keep donors happy, you may need to focus on adapting your communications.

“We all want to be communicated with differently,” Phillips explains. Some donors may want to receive weekly newsletters while others may prefer to talk on the phone. The first step to having personalized communications is to simply ask individual donors how they’d like to be reached and how often. Be sure to keep record of their answer and move forward in the direction they’ve requested.

As you place more focus on your communication, think about how you can go beyond the normal channels. Most organizations send mail, newsletters, and notes acknowledging contributions. Consider how you can get creative when reaching out to your donors. Whether it’s regularly calling your supporters on the phone or setting up time to speak face to face, going beyond the normal communication tactics can go a long way toward helping your supporters stay engaged.

Be a Good Listener

When speaking with your donors, you may be tempted to spend time explaining your latest initiatives or projects and telling them how much their support means to your organization. While this may be important, it may be more meaningful to focus on listening.

“People feel like a part of something when they have a little bit of a voice. It doesn’t have to be huge, but they need to feel like they’re being listened to,” Phillips says. “Pay attention to what they want and ask them for feedback on what’s important to them.”

Start by asking questions. How did they hear about your organization? What do they like about your mission? What would you like to see the organization focus on?

For example, if you learn that an individual donor is especially passionate about a particular project your organization is working on, be sure to follow up with personalized updates on the project. In the future, you might ask them to help fund a similar initiative. This simple communication strategy provides the personal touch that can help donors feel connected, understood, and appreciated.

“Knowing your donors and knowing what motivates them can help unlock what they’re passionate about,” Phillips explains. And once you know what motivates and inspires your donors, it’s easier to align your initiatives and fundraising programs in the future.

By focusing on relationships, personalized communication, and good listening skills, you’ll be on your way to creating a happy — and generous — donor base who is invested in growing your organization.

“As you build trust and build relationships more intentionally, donors become more engaged — and as they become more engaged, they develop a sense of commitment to the community, to the mission, to the program,” Phillips says.

For further guidance, learn more about our nonprofits, endowments, and foundations capabilities.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.