There is an ever-growing body of research trying to determine why people give. Think of your own charitable giving and ask yourself what it was that enticed you to actually get out your wallet. Was it the way you were asked or who did the asking, the organization’s mission, their website, or possibly the picture of the sad puppy that tipped the scale? Whatever it was, chances are strong that your response was driven by psychology. The reason that you responded may not be the same reason why your neighbor responded to the same appeal.

By learning the reasons why your supporters respond to your organization’s communication and appeals, you are better able to target your message. How do you do this most effectively and convert your supporters to donors? By building a relationship with your supporters, tracking their responses to your message and encouraging those who do show interest to become more engaged.

Building Relationships

This constituent relationship is cultivated by you; there is either a positive or negative connotation formed in the constituent’s mind based on every point of contact with your organization. The tone of your email, too many or too few emails, too many or too few asks, or neglecting a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ can all have a negative impact on the relationship with your supporter. Every supporter wants to feel that they are a valuable part of something larger, which is behind their decision to contribute their time or money to your organization.

In order to give your supporters a positive experience at every level, try these tips:

  • Respect your supporters’ communication preferences, noting what method of contact they prefer and how often they want to hear from you.
  • Make your supporters feel recognized and properly acknowledged after their donation, ‘take action’ or any involvement with your organization.
  • Acknowledge all donations, regardless of the amount. Establish a clear and consistent plan within your organization for thanking your supporters after a donation.
  • Keep an updated database and make appropriate notes about your supporters, donors and their milestones, such as a birthday, an anniversary in memoriam, or a giving milestone.
  • Have a welcome letter ready for first-time donors, thanking them for deciding to financially support your mission. Include ways that show how their contribution makes a difference, and show them how they can keep up-to-date with the work your organization is doing through social media, blogs, your newsletter, etc.

These personal touches help foster a sense of belonging and are key ways to keep your supporters engaged and attending your next event, contacting their elected official or supporting your organization financially.

Tracking Responses

Once you have sent an email to your supporters, there are many tools available for researching how your supporters are responding to your message. Pay close attention to how your e-blasts are performing.

Evaluate the success of each campaign by assigning metrics to every tactic. If you can measure it, then you can improve it.

Regularly check on:

  • Open rates
  • Click-throughs
  • Response rates
  • Unsubscribes

Be sure to measure these after sending an e-blast and compare the results with previous e-blasts. Tracking click-throughs is especially important in determining what type of content your supporters want.

Experiment with (and track) different messages and appeals.

You can experiment with different versions of an email to see which version receives the greater response (using the email metrics listed above), by using a process called A/B Testing (also referred to as Split Testing). Some strategies for appealing to the psychological responses of your supporters include using A/B analytics in your marketing strategy to craft communication using:

  • Significant key words – used to trigger an emotional response
  • Response rate tracking based on gender or generation – different genders may respond to different emotional triggers; different generations may need different approaches from your organization
  • The timeliness of an issue – your emails have a larger chance of being opened if the issue is immediate and/or urgent
  • Personal stories – the “identifiable victim effect” has been shown to generate more donations than stating a general or statistical-based need of an organization

Encouraging More Sustainers/Recurring Donors

As you are building and cultivating the relationship with your supporters and increasing their engagement level, you want to be sure that you are also encouraging recurring donations. Building a strong foundation of engaged, recurring donors will help the sustainability of your organization.

Here are 6 questions to ask yourself as you set up a recurring donor campaign:

  1. Does it take longer than 1-2 seconds to find the donate button on your website? If so, you have potentially lost a donation. Make sure your donate button is large, noticeable, and above the fold of your website – potential donors shouldn’t have to scroll to find your donate button.
  2. Does your donation page include a recurring donation option?
  3. Is the recurring donation option highlighted and promoted, with suggested monthly donation amounts?
  4. Are the benefits of recurring donations clearly stated – less administrative costs for your organization, more budget-friendly for the donor, and the opportunity to change or cancel at any time specifically noted?
  5. Are you accepting both credit card and e-check (or ACH) donations?
  6. Have you effectively communicated exactly how your donors’ funds will be used? (i.e., pie charts showing the percentage of each donation that goes towards administrative costs or fund designation options on your donation page, so that donors can choose to contribute to Save the Salamander vs. Preserve the Prairie Dog)

Respectful relationships are built on mutual trust. Your supporters need to trust that you are listening to them and your organization can be trusted to provide them with meaningful content. By communicating with your supporters using the parameters they have set and by sending content that is most meaningful to them, you show your supporters that you are trustworthy.

Listen to what your supporters want from you, note and track their responses and target any follow-up communication appropriately.

A donation from a supporter is not just a financial transaction, but a very personal and emotional act, based on their response to your organization and your message.