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How to Engage Supporters as a New Nonprofit

As a newly established nonprofit, you face many unique challenges, but one of the biggest on your agenda is effectively engaging with supporters.

And because your organization is new, your supporters are new as well! So, in order to sustain the support coming in and expand on it, quality of engagement with supporters is key.  

This topic was recently discussed in an online forum called Round Table, hosted by City of Light Consulting, that included insights from both nonprofit administrators and professionals who help them.  You can watch the presentation here: Round Table #1.

From this conversation, we compiled 10 action steps for effective supporter engagement:

1. Establish Your Brand & Stay True To It

Show your passion for your nonprofit’s cause within your mission statement and convey this passion in all your communications.  Do this by highlighting the importance of the efforts you’re sharing with your supporters and the potential effect they can have by contributing to your cause.

2. Tailor your Message to Your Audience

There will be different segments of your audience, including but not limited to:  volunteers, donors, and any organizations you’re in correspondence with.  Your messaging should be tailored to each group, while still remaining true to your brand.

Over time, you should be progressively getting to know your supporters in such a way that you can segment them into appropriate groups and tailor your messaging to optimally target each of them.

3. Keep it fresh

Tell your supporters something new each time you contact them.  Let them know what new things have been achieved thanks to their help.  Show pictures of those who have been helped or projects that are in progress – to be followed up later with the completed product.

Keep your supporters engaged with your organization, but don’t send them just any old message; give them something to get excited about!

4. Always Plan Campaigns in Advance

The last thing you want to do is initiate a campaign and start sending out appeals in rapid succession.  You need to finesse your way into requesting donations for a particular campaign by warming people up to it first.  You do this with your continual, fresh, inspiring communications through all of your relevant channels.

Introduce the campaign idea, then continually show your progress toward launching it in new, fresh, creative and inspiring ways — all leading up to the final showdown!  Get people excited so they anticipate a campaign or event, instead of surprising them with one that you put together last minute.

5. Utilize A/B Testing

A/B testing is the process of comparing two slightly varied versions of a webpage or email to see which one performs better.

Consider yourself a supporter engagement detective, figuring out what works for your supporters and what doesn’t based on their behavior, which you can measure and see with any number of online tools.  

A good place to start is with your emails.  For example, you could compare the response rate or click-through rate of an email appeal with a blue call-to-action button versus a yellow one.  

Using an email service like MailChimp will show you these analytics, which you can then use to inform your future messaging.  The goal of A/B testing is to fine tune your email appeals and/or webpages to achieve optimal response rates and overall engagement with your organization.

6. Use Donation Tiers

If you decide to use an online fundraising platform, make sure it includes the functionality to display donation tiers (as shown below).  This allows donors to see specifically what their money will be going towards!  

Engage Supporters

Transparency is huge with online fundraising.  People like knowing where their money is going and if they don’t feel certain about that, they probably won’t donate at all.  And although you don’t NEED donation tiers to receive online donations, they are a growing preference among the donor community and so definitely worth giving a try!

7. Be Conversational on Social Media

Having a good social media presence can be a great asset to your nonprofit.

Try tagging partner organizations in your posts and commenting on their posts to help initiate conversations.  This will expose their viewers to your organization – even if they don’t visit your page directly, your name will be appearing in more places for potential supporters to see, meaning they will now know you exist, which is a pretty big deal!

Begin sharing the content of others and pay attention to the responses you get from that.  Be sure to tag or @mention whomever the content belongs to, as they might appreciate the acknowledgment, and hey, maybe even return the favor!

8. Don’t Rely Solely On the Internet

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is online now – or in the process of becoming mobile in one way or another.  This is super, great, incredible and convenient in many aspects, but don’t assume that it’s the all-encompassing answer to every problem. . . It simply isn’t.

The internet is an amazing tool that people can use — with special emphasis on people here — we are not tools and don’t like being treated as such!  If our interpersonal relationships were limited to online interactions, we would cease to exist.  So, although you’ll have supporters who prefer interacting via the web, there still needs to be a personal element now and then – for some people more than others!

Getting one-on-one contact will help your supporters develop stronger ties to your organization.  Personal phone calls, in-person coffee dates, and even hand-written notes, are all great examples of what you can do to establish more personal connections with your supporters.  Interacting in this way can also create more excitement among your board members.

9. Always Be Appreciative

It’s much more effective to show your appreciation when you do it in a personalized way.  Even your thank you emails should be made as personalized as possible, so your donors don’t feel like they’re simply getting the same generic email template everyone else is getting.

Keeping supporters informed and providing inspiring content in the process is one way of doing this, but there are many ways to show love to your donors that you can experiment with and tailor to your unique brand.

10. Now Go Forth with Your Mission

Quality engagement is an integral step to growing your nonprofit’s support system and by utilizing these tips, you’ll be well on your way!!

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