Skip to main content

Following my previous post on How charities can take the goodwill spirit of the holidays into the new year, I want to share some practical tips on building effective donor lifecycle campaigns. By applying them, you’ll understand how timely communications can encourage more responses from your donors, establish and maintain a lasting relationship.

1. Make your donors feel welcome and set expectations

First donations represent the start of the journey, and it’s when your donors are most responsive to your communications. Take advantage of this by setting a triggered email campaign to welcome them to your charity. But go beyond a simple welcome, introduce more about your charity and set expectations of your communications.

Let donors know:

If they unsubscribe from your emails at this point, it may be an indication that other channels are more suited for them, or that they’re a one-off donor. It’s a good idea to set up questions on the unsubscribe page to find out why they’re unsubscribing. And then feed this back into your strategy. What could you do better next time?

2. Establish a relationship

Once you have set expectations about your communications, be very careful not to jump in too soon and demand donations again. This might turn people off from becoming loyal connections.

Instead, engage the donors by immersing them in the lives or areas that their gift touches.  Make them understand the impact of their donation over time, before you ask again. And share with them your areas of success, so you endear them to your charity, not just the cause you support.

Timing is crucial here – understand how long it takes to first establish a connection and then, how long it takes for that donor to give something to the cause again. If you’re not sure, test your emails and look at conversion results. What works for other charities, might not work for you, so make sure you understand your own data.

3. Measure the donor journey

To ensure meaningful, lasting relationships, start tracking behavioral patterns and responses as soon as possible. Some organisations are surprised to learn that their most loyal donors who started giving with an ‘entry-level donation’, tend to have a greater lifetime value than even those who gave greater initially then dropped off the donor program. Remember to keep the communications regular, but avoid a batch and blast approach because not all donors will find the same information relevant.

4. Segment your messages based on personas

If you want to maintain a genuine relationship, your communications should be relevant and they shouldn’t feel forced. When it comes to developing your strategy, create a specific pathway for the different types of donors: new, current, loyal and unengaged. Then, measure retention, average donation spend, revenue per donor and frequency within each subset.

For example, a loyal donor will want to hear from you more often than an unengaged one. They will be interested in your news, events and successes. And they’ll be more likely to become involved with your charity. Loyal donors will be the ones who get involved in supporting your fundraising events, so why not invite them with a personalized email to take action? SSAFA adopted this strategy and the results were fantastic.