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Online giving grew by 11% in 2012*. Which means the ROI in online fundraising tools, many of which are free, is pretty dang good. But we all know a one-time experience of growth is not enough to support the years of work ahead for your nonprofit. The real work will be to retain these donors — how should your nonprofit foster healthy relationships with online donors? Here are three ideas:

1. Match their speed

The online world is quick. No one stays in one place very long. We travel from e-mail to Facebook to news articles to Twitter to BuzzFeed, and send a text message all before our barista can drizzle the caramel sauce on our macchiato in the morning. This also means that we are impatient and expect immediate responses to our actions. Your donor should hear from you within a week of giving to you. (p.s. asking them for more money doesn’t count.) Plan a time each day just to send thank you’s to your donors: send an email, tweet a thank you if you know their twitter handle, hand-write a quick note, or list their name in a Facebook status. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just timely and sincere.

2. Match their message

A donor’s behavior tells you something about them. If they are willing to give their hard earned cash online, it means they are comfortable living online – they communicate, act, and relate online. They’ve demonstrated their greatest expression of love for you through an online service, and are expecting you to show them the love back, online. A warning light should go off if you ship a dissertation with an envelope for them to mail you an offline donation via certified express mail to a donor who gave $20 online last month. If they aren’t already angry that you ignored their previous donation (see above), they are doubly so to see you spending their donation on paper and postage they didn’t want in the first place. Make sure that what you are saying doesn’t get thrown away because of how you are saying it. Segment your communication lists and relate with your supporters the way they relate with you.

3. Make it about them

You may not want your donors to give to you online – it’s inconvenient to segment communications, learn new technologies, and glue your donor lists together – but the donor gets to choose how they donate to you. You can certainly encourage them to give through your preferred channels, and make it easy for them to do so, but don’t punish donors for not doing things your way. They have chosen to give you a gift, don’t snub them because of the wrapping paper. Celebrate their generosity, listen to them, and be willing to be inconvenienced to accept their investment.

How have you connected well with online donors?

*Blackbaud’s 2012 Charitable Giving Report

Claire Kennedy headshot
Claire Kennedy
Claire values context, creativity, and joy. She uses these skills to help causes invest in the good of others.