Long-term Relationships With Volunteers and Donors: 4 Tips to Grow Supporters

Supporters are the reason your nonprofit can make an impact in the community. They give to your mission in many ways, whether that’s donating resources or contributing their time by volunteering.

To make sure your nonprofit has enough supporters to power your efforts to improve the community, you can prioritize one of two activities: retaining your current donors and volunteers or finding new ones. You’ll need to look for new supporters sometimes to help your organization grow, but retention is more cost effective and sustainable. Keep in mind that building relationships with supporters is the key to retaining them.

Try these four tips to develop long-lasting relationships with volunteers and donors:

  1. Keep track of supporter data
  2. Engage volunteers and donors in several ways
  3. Personalize supporter communications
  4. Make use of volunteer grants

As you apply these tips at your nonprofit, make sure to invest in the right tools. A robust volunteer management system and constituent relationship management (CRM) platform are sure to take your relationship-building efforts to the next level. Let’s get started!

1. Keep track of nonprofit supporter’s data.

Like in other areas of your nonprofit’s operations, building supporter relationships is most effective when your strategy is grounded in data. Specifically, you’ll need to collect, analyze, and manage donor and volunteer data. This data can then inform your approach to retaining supporters. 

Some common supporter data points to track include:

  • Type of involvement: whether supporters donate, volunteer, attend fundraising events, participate in advocacy efforts, or engage in another way
  • Frequency and recency of engagement: how often supporters are involved and the last time they engaged with your organization
  • Total amount contributed: how much money they’ve given and/or how much time they’ve spent volunteering
  • Demographics: supporters’ age, location, education, employment information, family status, and wealth, among other characteristics
  • Motivations and interests that relate to your organization’s mission

As you collect these data points, you can segment your supporters based on shared characteristics to target your relationship-building efforts to each group. CharityEngine’s page on reporting and analytics also suggests analyzing volunteer and donor data as a whole. This helps your nonprofit set goals, develop strategies for supporter retention, and track your progress.

2. Engage supporters in several ways.

If your organization is looking to grow your donor base, one of the best places to start is with your volunteers. Similarly, if you want to grow your volunteer base, start by asking your donors if they’d like to volunteer. Inviting supporters to get involved in several ways helps you grow your relationship with them as they become more passionate about your mission.

To encourage supporters to engage with your nonprofit in new ways, try making recommendations based on their interests. For example, an animal shelter could reach out to the volunteers who help care for the rescue cats and ask if they’d like to sponsor a specific cat financially. Then, they could ask cat sponsors who haven’t volunteered yet if they’d like to come feed and play with their chosen cat and others at the shelter.

Fundraising events are another great opportunity for donors and volunteers to get involved. Invite donors to attend so they can see your mission in action. Reach out to your volunteer base in advance to see if they can help organize and run your event.

3. Personalize nonprofit supporter communications.

Supporters become more motivated to donate and volunteer when they feel like your organization values them as more than just a means of reaching goals—they want to be seen as people. The best way to show that you see them as individuals—and are truly thankful for their support—is to personalize all of your supporter communications.

Many nonprofit email marketing solutions have a setting where you can add each supporter’s name to the greeting and subject line of your thank-you messages. The more specific details you can include in the email copy—like their donation amounts or time spent volunteering—the better. Make sure to send one of these thank-you messages every time a supporter donates, volunteers, or attends an event.

Thank-you emails are important, but they’re the bare minimum of what you should do to thank your donors and volunteers.

To encourage supporters to deepen their involvement with your nonprofit, go above and beyond in showing gratitude by:

  • Sending out a handwritten volunteer thank-you letter at the end of each year
  • Gifting free branded merchandise to everyone who donates during a giving campaign
  • Hosting volunteer appreciation events
  • Recognizing your top supporters publicly, whether that’s through a social media shoutout, an introduction at a fundraising event, or a donor recognition wall

If you take these extra steps to thank your supporters, you make sure they know all of their efforts are appreciated. This is especially important as you prepare to suggest other opportunities for them to get involved. Instead of seeming like you want them to do more because you aren’t satisfied with what they’ve done. You let them know that you’re grateful for any contributions to your mission and want to continue your relationship with them. You’ll start seeing the payoff of increased donor and volunteer loyalty at your organization in no time!

4. Make use of volunteer grants.

Besides being a way for your nonprofit to essentially receive free funding. Volunteer grants help your volunteers do even more good for your organization. When a supporter who works for a company with a volunteer grant program volunteers and submits a grant request, their employer will donate to your nonprofit. Double the Donation’s guide to volunteer grants explains the process in four easy steps:

Four Easy Steps to Implement Volunteer Grants

  1. A supporter volunteers with your organization regularly. While some companies donate for every hour an employee volunteers, many require that employees meet a higher time threshold before applying for a grant, like 10 or 20 volunteer hours.
  2. They check their eligibility in a volunteer grant database. Your organization can (and should!) encourage all of your volunteers to do this to maximize your chances of getting funding.
  3. The company receives and reviews the necessary forms. They’ll likely check with your nonprofit to confirm that each employee submitted their volunteer hours accurately.
  4. Your organization receives a check from the company!

In your CRM and volunteer management system, make note of which volunteers work for companies with volunteer grant programs. Each time they volunteer, remind them to track their hours so they can submit them by their employer’s deadline. This reminder may even motivate them to volunteer more. As they’ll know their time is worth even more to your nonprofit’s mission.

Volunteer and donor retention helps secure your organization’s future. The stronger your relationships are with supporters, the more likely they will be to keep coming back to your nonprofit. With the right resources and retention strategies, you’ll be able to empower your community and further your mission for years to come.

Want to build stronger relationships with your volunteers? Get started with POINT today!

About the Author

Philip Schmitz – CEO & Founder

Philip Schmitz is the CEO and founder of cloud-services leader BIS Global, creators of the CharityEngine fundraising & communications technology platform. Founded in 1999, Phil has managed the vision and strategy for BIS’s suite of integrated business applications & hosting tools used by more than 400 businesses & non-profits.

Philip Schmitz – CEO & Founder

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Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.