3 Ideas to Improve Your Donor Relations

One of the biggest obstacles in fundraising for outdoor ministries is staff finding time to make non-solicitation connections and cultivate fundraising relationships. It’s a challenge for nearly every small non-profit. There are always more (seemingly) urgent tasks and, let’s be honest, it’s easy to procrastinate those donor visits.

Here are three ideas to improve your donor relations that are easy to implement, low-/no-cost, and won’t take significantly more time. These ideas are not substitutes for getting in donor visits. There is no comparison to the benefit of visiting in-person about what God is doing and the impact a donor’s financial support has on this work, but these strategies may help extend your reach when one-to-one visit isn’t possible:

  1. Use Google Alerts.

    Building relationships are a key part of effective fundraising. You want to be aware of big news about your donors but can’t possibly sift through thousands of articles daily to ensure you don’t miss something. Automate technology to work for you.

    Set a Google Alert for each of your top donors and top prospective donors. Google Alerts sends you an email with a link to the information when a new result for your customized topic shows up in Google Search. With this information available, you can easily send a note of congratulations, condolences, or whatever the occasion requires.

    Wondering how to set a Google Alert? Google it!

  2. Capture the feeling.

    Donors want to be “insiders”. Help donors feel part of those camp moments with a selfie video of active camp life.

    For instance: Standing at the back of worship, with the camera pointed to the stage and yourself in frame, record a 15-second clip saying something like, “Hi! I’ve been thinking about you! We’ve just begun a new week with opening worship and __#_ of campers. Please pray for all of us this week as we grow in faith. Thank you for your support of this ministry; we couldn’t do this without you!”

    Then email the video* to your donors. In this way, they get to see a glimpse of ministry in action – even if they can’t be there in person.

    Add clips of other meaningful spaces and sounds that will resonate with your donors: campfires, familiar camp songs, mealtime table banter, maybe the kitchen preparation of those iconic cookies. Create the feeling as if they’re right there with you.

    Already missed out on the summer camp season? Capture your winter retreat, Clean Up Day, or other day-in-the-life of outdoor ministry.

    *Adhere to privacy guidelines for youth campers. Be sure to have the appropriate permissions to share.

  3. Give back.

    For many outdoor ministries, church and denominational funding have eroded over several decades. We ask congregations for campers and retreat groups, financial and prayer support. Take time to give back in a way that keeps your outdoor ministry front-of-mind and serves as a reminder of the partnership you share.

    Provide your supporting congregations a recorded devotional to use at the beginning of a Council meeting as a thank you for their partnership in ministry as you send back campers who have experienced God in new ways, have grown in faith, and are returning to these congregations and communities.

    This isn’t intended to be a video about your outdoor ministry per se, though you can weave in a few details or exciting outcomes; instead, it should focus on what God is doing in and through the campers and your shared ministries. The video should open and close with gratitude for their faithful support.

    The devotional video should not include an ask for support but making it available for an August or September Council meeting could be timely for church budget discussions. Similarly, an April or May schedule would build toward the excitement of the upcoming season and a partnering hand-off as you receive campers and church activities scale down for the summer.

A consultant with GSB Fundraising, Jennie provides consulting services in areas of annual, capital, major and planned gift programs, strategic planning, Board development, and engaging volunteers. She has extensive experience in growing annual support, developing successful direct mail and marketing initiatives, facilitating an effective call center, and training volunteers in response to a changing climate of charitable giving.

Equipped with more than 25 years of fundraising experience, a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential, and governing board service across a diverse landscape of nonprofit organizations, Jennie brings a wealth of knowledge to each client. She holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, which compliments her professional experience.

Jennie lives in Toledo, Ohio with her husband, Paul, and their three children: Mullin, Annika, and Amira. Jennie volunteers as a NICU cuddler at Ebeid Children’s Hospital in Toledo and as an Endowment Trustee for Olivet Lutheran Church in Sylvania OH.

Jennie Wolf Smith, CFRE, GSB Consultant