DickersonBakker Blog

woman calling donors to promote donor relations

Donor Relations: The Guide to Building Positive Relationships

Without your donors, your nonprofit would likely struggle to reach its fundraising goals. That’s why it’s so important to focus your time on nurturing and improving the relationships you’ve established with your donors.

These supporters value your organization and it’s up to you to keep them engaged and maintain a lasting connection. Let’s dive into donor relations and what you need to know to help these relationships thrive. 

The Relationship Between Donors and Nonprofits

Everything that contributes to a positive experience for donors is known as donor relations. This encompasses the entire process, from the first point of contact to the development of a long-term relationship. 

When diving deeper into donor relations, you might see that there’s overlap between relationship management and donor stewardship. Donor retention, as mentioned, is everything that makes up the donor’s experience with your organization. Donor stewardship, on the other hand, is the act of ensuring that donations received are used for their intended purpose. Many donors like to receive letters or calls after making a contribution that assures them of the impact that their donation has made. 

Maintaining a strong and healthy relationship between your nonprofit and your donors is essential in order for your organization to flourish. By contributing to a high-quality relationship, you can expect donor retention, engagement, and overall trust in your organization to go up. 

3 Donor Relations Focus Areas

When it comes to staying on top of your donors, there’s a lot that comes into play. From the introduction of new donors to retention strategies, you don’t want any of your efforts to fall through the cracks. Categorizing your strategy into three main focus areas can help you distribute responsibilities across your team and ensure that every donor is catered to properly. 


One of the biggest things to avoid in your donor relation journey is to leave your supporters in the dark. Instead, keep up regular contact with your donors and emphasize the valuable impact that they have made. When improving your communication efforts, think about what donors might want to know about your nonprofit and try to provide them with relevant information. 

When focusing on effective donor communications, here’s some pointers to keep in mind. 

  • Ask your donors how they would like to be contacted and use that method. Some people are fine with a phone call while others prefer an email.
  • If you are able, try to add a personal touch to your messages. 
  • If your donor base is pretty large, or you have a small team, organize your donors into segments based on commonalities and cater your communication to satisfy those groups.
  • Use graphics to make your messages more engaging.
  • Include an enticing call-to-action so your donors are encouraged to continue to be involved. 


To make personalizing messages a little bit easier, try segmenting your list of donors. Instead of creating an individual message for every single person who has made a contribution, divide your donors into smaller groups and alter the messaging that goes to each segment. 

To create these segments, choose similarities between your donors and make connections across contacts. You can create segments for a wide range of factors, including age, recency of donations, participation in campaigns, and location.

With your list of segmented donors ready to go, the next thing to figure out is how you’ll be interacting with them. Think about what information might be most important for each group and how frequently they might want to hear from you. A long-time donor won’t need a reminder of your organization, but a new prospect could always use a refresher.

Thanks to personalized communication to your groups, you should be able to gather some information on each segment. See what information or communication methods that your donors are responding well to and make adjustments as needed. Use this information to your advantage and continuously work to improve the ways donors experience your organization.


Not only do nonprofits encourage people to make major gifts, but they also want to see their donors coming back again and again. In fact, while it’s still important to conduct prospect research, you’re more likely going to have better results from your fundraising efforts if you seek out donations from past donors. Plus, it might be easier to grow your existing relationships than it is to create entirely new ones.

Donors must see the worth of their contributions in order for them to want to come back to your organization. That’s where appreciation efforts come into play. Making a sincere effort to put donations into perspective can give your donors a sense of fulfillment. 

Additionally, tracking donor retention can give your team insights into where your donors are making the most impacts and where they could use a bit of extra support. The point is, show your donors what difference their donations make and your retention rates should increase. 

The Donor Relationship Journey

Donors don’t just appear out of thin air. It takes some adjusting to bring any donor to the level of a major donor. The donor journey is the way an individual comes to know your organization and how they choose to interact with you. 

When doing your prospect research and managing previous donors, keep in mind where each individual is in terms of their relationship with your organization. This can help you determine how best to communicate with them and what kind of support they may need from you in order to stay engaged with your mission. 


The first stage of the donor journey is awareness, or how an individual is first introduced to your nonprofit. This introductory stage is sometimes kickstarted through a Google search, social media post, or other forms of advertisements. It could even include calling prospective donors and introducing them to your nonprofit personally. 


The next phase of the donor journey is consideration. During this stage, a prospective donor should be taking some time to get to know who you are as an organization and what you stand for. 

As a nonprofit, this is your opportunity to really wow them and show them all of the ways your organization has made a difference in your community. Keep helpful statistics and powerful stories on your website so donors can learn more about your organization and what you are trying to accomplish.


Now that a prospect has a good understanding of your goals, it’s time to make your big proposal. Asking someone to donate is no easy task, so make sure the process is as simple as possible. Create a dedicated donation page on your website with different donation amounts to choose from. Also, don’t forget to include how a donation will help your organization move closer to reaching your fundraising goal!


The final stage in the donor journey is engagement. After a person has made a contribution, it’s up to you to hold their attention and show them their impact. This can look like a message of gratitude or a report showing exactly what their donation was used for. 

Use this phase as an opportunity to invite donors to come back again in the future or share your nonprofit with their community. 

Managing Your Donors

In order to maintain a strong relationship, you need to actively manage your donors. Donors should never feel ignored after they’ve made a contribution to your organization. Instead, create a plan to keep your nonprofit top of mind and promote involvement with campaigns. Here’s a few methods to help with donor management.

Call Your Donors

One of the easiest ways to recognize your donors is to give them a quick call and say “Thank you” for their support. Even if you end up leaving a voicemail, this simple act can be completed quickly while making your donors feel appreciated. 

Get Them Involved

If you don’t provide updates, how are donors going to know what’s going on with your nonprofit? Whether you’re sharing information on social media or sending out an email campaign, make sure you provide donors with opportunities to continue to support your organization beyond encouraging donations.

Track Donations

Do you know the last time one of your previous donors contributed to a fundraiser? You should keep an up-to-date database to track each donor, their movement through the donor journey, and information about their contributions. This information can also help you determine who might need a nudge if they haven’t heard from your team in a while. 

Additionally, accurate records can help you figure out what strategies have worked well for your nonprofit and where there might be room for improvement. Use this information to tweak your strategy and continue improving your fundraising efforts.

Benefits of Positive Donor Relationships

Putting time into your donor relations will result in a range of benefits for your nonprofit. Not only will you be strengthening your reputation in your community, but you’ll also increase your support network. Between major donors and new prospects, focusing on the quality of your relationships will enhance the effectiveness of your fundraising strategies. 

Increased Involvement

Engaging with your supporters will encourage them to get involved in future fundraising events. Whether that’s making annual donations or sharing information within their communities, expect to see increased involvement among new and existing donors when they value your organization. 

If your donors share your nonprofit with their friends and families, you might even get an influx of volunteers wanting to provide some extra assistance. Establishing these connections can provide you with resources that you might not have known you needed before. 

Recurring Donations

In addition to more involvement from the community, your donors will be more likely to give again if they feel a connection with your mission and your staff. According to Double the Donation, 57% of donors are enrolled in a recurring giving program. Failing to grow your relationships can decrease donor retention rates, therefore lowering the amount of recurring donations your organization will receive. 

Learn From Your Donors

Developing relationships with your donors provides you with a unique opportunity to hear from your supporters. With a strong sense of trust, your donors might feel comfortable to share what could be improved within your organization to enhance the giving process or make interactions easier. 

Ask them about positive experiences they’ve had with your organization and where they felt a bit disconnected. This information can provide insight into how you should adjust your fundraising strategies to bring in more donations the next time around.

Build a Strong Donor Base With Fundraising Consultants

If there’s one big takeaway from enhancing your donor relations, it should be the importance of engagement with your supporters. Your donors have made significant contributions to your organization, and it’s up to you to show them how grateful you are for their time and effort. While engagement with donors is only a part of nurturing donor relations, it’s critical that you are doing what you can to make them feel important. 

When managing your donors feels like a heavy weight to bear, you can find support from DickersonBakker. A strong relationship with your donors will make sure that your organization is continuously making strides toward reaching your goals. If you find yourself struggling to keep up with donor management, we have a team of fundraising consultants here to help.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you obtain major gifts and take you a step closer toward achieving your goals.

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