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How to Build Donor Trust and Increase Donor Retention

6 minute read
By the
  • Dec 27th, 2016

Building donor trust and increasing donor retention is paramount to the success of your fundraiser. In any relationship, whether professional or personal, trust plays an important role, in particular, donors trusting your organization is essential when trying to build a loyal supporter base. In addition to the trust of a donor in your organization, their confidence in your cause is equally important because it can help determine the level of their support and loyalty.

How to build donor trust

Building donor trust is a straightforward process. You just need to be open with your donors by telling them how your charity or organization operates. In addition, trust can develop naturally as you establish a long-term and genuine relationship with your donors.

#1. Always convey a clear and consistent message

Ensuring consistency in the message that you convey to your donors is very important when it comes to building their trust in your organization. This message should start with the establishment of a clear brand. Perhaps, your organization has a limited staff. This means you might not have a specific person or team that is responsible for your organization’s branding. In that case, you must be very careful to ensure that every organization’s member conveys the right message through the communication channels of the organization. However, if you have a large organization, you most likely have a communications and marketing department. This department should be responsible for conveying the right message to your current and future supporters.

Ideally, take time to come up with an organizational brand and make sure that your team members are familiar with it. Ensure that your organization conveys a consistent message in all touch points of your donors including your newsletters, social media posts, websites, events promotions and mailings among others. Use the same language, fonts, logos, and colors. Perhaps, an ideal way of doing this is creating a communication plan. This is a document that outlines the correspondence schedule for donors both offline and online.

#2. Ensure financial transparency

Donors can easily research the financial status of your organization (in cases of non-profit / charitable organizations). That’s why transparency with your donors is very important. You build trust with donors when you keep the financial situation of your organization open and easily accessible to them.

  • Publishing your accounting and financial documents for donors to download and review.
  • Providing information about the cost of your fundraising, marketing, administration and services. (In other words, break down your expenses by their purpose and outline the allocation to each organizational function.).
  • Tracking and even reimbursing per diem expenses accurately.
  • Considering a compensation policy that is approved by the board.
  • Using non-profit guides to publish organizational information.
  • Including interest policy conflict in the policy manual of your organizational board.

Transparency can be used as a fundraising tool because potential but skeptical donors will appreciate the openness of your organization. A transparent organization communicates trust and openness, which provides confident to current and future donors and will encourage them to continue to contribute to your organization and cause.

#3. Report results regularly

Accountability and transparency go hand-in-hand. Donors want to be updated on the impact of their donations. Thus, they want to see the fruits of their contributions. Therefore, report the results of the decisions and actions of your organization regularly. This includes the services provided and funded projects. Basically, your organization will build donor trust by compiling regular annual reports or factual, impact-related materials or documents. The reports should provide details of the long-term and immediate accomplishments and intended outcomes. Information about the lows and highs of the organization should also be availed in the report and what made changes possible. Donors appreciate seeing the direct effect of the contributions they make. Therefore, let them know about the mobilized volunteers, lives impacted and other accomplishments.

You can stay in communication with your supporters over your social media accounts, newsletters and websites. It is suggested you strive to provide updates on a weekly basis with a quarterly overview that outlines your progress and accomplishments to date.

#4. Appreciate donors

This one sounds obvious as we all appreciate kindness and gratitude for our efforts. The key point here is to focus on donor appreciation continuously to earn their trust. Donors do not just want you to acknowledge them for their gifts, they need you to acknowledge them too. As such, your goal should be to cultivate a long-term relationship with donors, not their dollars. To achieve this, make your appreciation unique, heartfelt and personal. Let donors know how their contributions impacted on the lives of other people. Remember that there is more to appreciating donors than just saying thank you. Take time to know the donors of your organization, what motivates their actions and their values. You can do this via a post on the social media, a special event that brings your donors together or even a phone call. When you know your donors better, you can easily establish a better, long-term relationship with them.

How to increase donor retention

Building donor trust is one of the most effective ways of increasing donor retention. Donor retention is simply a measure of the donors that donate to your organization continuously. Organizations that properly manage their donor retention will experience continuous contributions throughout the year which will enable your organization to have smoother cash flows and operations. It costs approximately five times to acquire a new donor than it does to retain an existing one. This is why donor retention is so important. However, donors belong to a fickle group whose interests change rapidly, as such, your organization must know how to engage and retain donors.

Strategies to build trust and retain donors:

  • Send each donor a thank you message after every donation. The Donorhut platform allows you to create a custom thank you message sent to each donor after they contribute.
  • Take time to learn about every donor including their employment, family and philanthropic passions. This can be accomplished through interaction on social media, through email or by hosting fundraising / donor events.
  • Set up your donors with volunteer opportunities in your organization: This will help your donors contribute to your cause in another way and truly feel the impact of their efforts.
  • Share results of the actions or activities of your organization with donors on regular basis. As mentioned earlier it is suggested that you engage with your donors on a weekly basis and submit quarterly summary reports that outline your progress and accomplishments.
  • Connect with donors via the social media. You can also ask donors to sign up for your organizational newsletter: Hand-in-hand with the above is the use of social media in your fundraising, this allows you to quickly and easily connect with your donors on a regular basis. In addition, a newsletter helps the donors stay informed outside of the social media networks.
  • Make sure that donors feel treasured and irreplaceable. Let them know that your organization cannot do its work with their continued support.
  • Hold donor-centric events like donor appreciation luncheons or networking events.

The above strategies are only a few ideas that will help your organization maintain a higher rate of donor retention and help you build stronger relationships with your supporters through trust. This guarantees your organization a group of long-term supporters that will regularly support your cause and remain loyal. Ideally, when trying to improve donor retention, focus on having loyal donors. These are donors with personal, underlying commitment to your organizational cause. Such donors will always be on the side of your organization, they will spread the right information about your cause and make sure that it continues to thrive.

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