Building Relationships as a Nonprofit That Last all Year Long

The Big Day of Giving and Mid-Year appeals are coming up and two questions we get around this time is “why is print important to my campaign,” and “How can I keep all my new and existing donors happy?”

Print is important to a campaign because:

You’ve got to reach people where they are, when they are most receptive, and as many times and ways as you can. As Kivi Leroux Miller, a nonprofit communications consultant and author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide points out, “I don’t believe in any of this ‘print is dead’ or ‘email is dead’ nonsense. What’s ‘dead’ is thinking you can use just one form of communication and expect your messages to get through.” Pairing your digital marketing campaigns with something memorable and tactile not only improves a person’s ability to recall your information but to think about it in a positive manner.

Promote public awareness by using flyers, postcards, banners and posters. Just be sure to target areas where your potential donors are most likely to be. The tricky thing about nonprofits is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that applies to every organization. But you should know the persona of your potential donor. Let’s say an animal shelter has a specific persona they are looking for. That person may be: an owner of animals, aged 35-65 (established career and disposable income), home owner, etc. This isn’t to say that younger people who rent aren’t interested, they just may be more interested in volunteering their time or being an advocate in some other way. Now that you know who you are targeting, be sure to show up (figuratively) everywhere they are during the day. People have different attitudes when they do activities like read their email, check their Facebook, open their mail, etc.

Once you have people interested, it’s important to continue campaigning in order to keep them engaged. Nurture existing and new donors in ways that build more trust and convert donors into educated advocates.


Show them you are making a difference. Try a monthly or quarterly newsletter in print and digital form. Newsletters have a certain “weight” or “officialness” about them that cause people to take the organization seriously. Give people information on what you are doing with their donated dollars, and what you intent to do, and they will feel more connected to your organization. This connection strengthens their reasons to keep their money with your nonprofit instead of moving it someplace else.  People enjoy reading your newsletter at home and they also enjoy it most in print because it provides a break from fast-paced, in-your-face technology that people deal with day-to-day. While digital media may attract a donor, a newsletter will keep them around. You are building a relationship with your audience and creating advocates to your cause.

Show them that their contribution is valuable to you. Direct mail experts warn against sending out mass mailers to your donors that aren’t personalized or worse, a mailer with incorrect information. Those experts are right! In order for direct mail to be successful it needs to be personalized with correct information (take a really good look at your list!), make the donor feel like a valued friend to the organization, and be followed up with appropriate supplemental media and/or actions. Otherwise you are just distancing yourself and just wasting money. You can try a few things: cards with variable imaging and phrases (in addition to names) that better define different groups of donors, and personalized letters that show the donor exactly how their contribution has helped others. The same goes for personalized emails.

Potential donors are at a different point in the sales process and they need to see how you benefit the community more than they need to see what you know about them (which you are still using, just not making it obvious to them), so they will need a different touch. You might want to list something simple and concise that their donation amount will provide for a recipient.

Palm tree and thankyou noteSay Thank You! Nothing says thank you quite like a useful gift and/or a timely “thank you!”. Many successful nonprofits use products such as T-shirts, tote-bags, hats, mailing labels, lanyards, and chapstick. Keep in mind that these items are also worn/used around town and are seen many times over the life of the product. Hand written notes also do the trick. Get a notecard or a thank you card printed and hand write or hand sign them. Keep in mind there are many fonts and effects that mimic handwriting, so ask us to show you a sample—we’d be glad to help you out!

Need more ideas? We serve many successful nonprofits and can offer the same level of support to you. 530-885-9674.

Published by

Danielle Apple

Danielle is head of our graphic design department. A self-proclaimed "sponge," she is addicted to learning about marketing and to eating chocolate.