Jun 18, 2021

Ways To Build Trust With Different Types Of Supporters

How you communicate with people depends on the relationship you have with them. Of course, you want to be friendly to everyone, but the amount of information you disclose, time you invest, and questions you ask will differ based on the relationship you have built with someone. 

The same is true for your supporters! There are general practices nonprofits can employ to build trust or demonstrate impact, but today we’re breaking down the different communication and engagement strategies for each type of supporter rooting your organization on. This includes not only traditional supporters like financial donors, but untraditional supporters like companies, staff, and volunteers! 

Keep reading to learn:

  • What different types of supporters all have in common 
  • The different types of supporters: who they are and what to focus on
  • How to engage with the different supporters rooting you on

What Different Supporters All Have In Common

Before we dive into how communication and engagement looks different for each group of supporters, it’s important to understand what they all have in common:

#1. Relationships should be founded on transparency and appreciation. Regardless of what group a supporter falls in or how much they give, each and every supporter is critical to the advancement of your mission. Supporters deserve to know what’s going on in your organization and to feel like you truly are grateful for their support.

#2. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to communication preferences. There are general communication strategies you can employ for each group (more on this below), but the personal communication preferences of these groups will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit.

#3. You need to understand the people you have in these groups to know what channel or frequency of communication they would prefer. If you’re not sure, ask! 

What To Do For Different Types Of Supporters

Financial Donors

  • Who they are: Any individual who has donated finances to your organization. This group can be broken down further into segments of giving levels to tailor communication even more. 
  • What to focus on: Impact. Donors want to know how their support is making a difference. Make it your aim to help donors build a personal and emotional connection to your cause. Don’t forget to remind them that they belong to a community of supporters just as passionate about your mission (i.e., something bigger than themselves).
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Monthly emails with inspiring program updates, testimonials, impact statements, progress toward goals, and needs.
    • Annual impact reports demonstrating how you’ve used their support to make a positive difference.
    • Personal texts, emails, or calls every 3–6 months to personally connect with donors.

Volunteers

  • Who they are: Those who freely give their time and talent to help your nonprofit thrive.
  • What to focus on: Opportunity. Volunteers are always looking for opportunities that meet the needs of your nonprofit. Provide them pathways to easily invest their time or talent alongside other passionate volunteers.
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Text last-minute volunteer opportunities.
    • Post volunteer opportunities for your program on a private “volunteers” social media group.
    • Email fundraising event opportunities throughout the year (e.g., greeters, table hosts).

Advocates

  • Who they are: The most dedicated and vocal supporters of your cause. They could also be a donor, volunteer, or someone working for the government, community, or institution to create policy that supports your mission.
  • What to focus on: Inspiration. Advocates need you to clearly communicate your needs, big picture strategy, and specific ways to support your mission. Keep in mind this group of supporters LOVES to educate others on who you are and what you do.
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Make sure they are the first to know about any awareness campaigns you’re promoting for your cause or program.
    • Email infographics or sharable images with statistics or myths about your cause or mission they can tag you in and share on social media.
    • Text them any milestone moments as you move the needle for your mission with a picture or video, thanking them for believing in you.

Board of Directors

  • Who they are: The governing body of your nonprofit.
  • Focus: Mission. Your Board is responsible for providing high-level strategy, oversight, and logistics. But don’t forget: Board Members are also donors and advocates, who should know your mission better than any other group of supporters. Your team’s job is to make sure they know it like the back of their hand.
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Start your next Board meeting with the 10-minute “mission moment” roundtable exercise. This is where each member shares a moment they had where they saw your nonprofit’s mission statement in action recently. For example, a powerful moment they had volunteering or sharing about your organization to a colleague.
    • Provide impact reports at each and every Board meeting. If you don’t meet each month, consider emailing one out.
    • Make sure your Board Members always have your nonprofit’s marketing materials and swag on hand, so that it’s easy for them to share your nonprofit’s mission with others.

Staff

  • Who they are: Your nonprofit’s team members.
  • What to focus on: Momentum. Provide your team purpose-driven communication that reminds them of the importance of how they contribute to your mission each and every day. Celebrate wins, demonstrate forward momentum, and remove bottlenecks, so they can focus on the positive difference they’re making.
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Write thank-you notes to individual team members, letting them know how much you appreciate them and all they do.
    • Spend 5 minutes at every staff meeting—rotating between different team members each week—praising their strengths, accomplishments, and ways they’ve helped others.
    • Invite each and every team member to the table during annual strategic planning meetings, so that they can see impacts, goals, and potential bottlenecks for burnout in the coming year.

Foundations

  • Who they are: A (private) individual, family, or company who has set up an independent legal entity solely for charitable giving.
  • What to focus on: Alignment. The most common form of foundation support comes from grants. It’s important to demonstrate alignment to foundations, so they know how your mission is helping them move forward with the strategic impacts they hope to have. Make a strong first impression by showing that you understand this, and have evidence to back up how your nonprofit is moving the needle.
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Mail your annual impact report demonstrating how your collaboration is making a difference, and offer to meet in-person or online to review it together.
    • Email regular program updates, so they feel “in the know” before the general public.
    • Send meaningful thank-you letters and notes from your staff and beneficiaries.

Companies

  • Who they are: Businesses who give time or money to your charity.
  • What to focus on: Mutually beneficial partnerships. Similar to foundations, companies want to make sure there is continued alignment between your organization and theirs to create a strategic impact for social good. Businesses typically want to see measurable results (ROI)—and they want to see these right away.
  • 3 ways to do that
    • Invite the company's executives to tour your nonprofit’s program to see measurable results before their own eyes.
    • Mail a personalized thank-you letter and swag bag to new business partners, so they know how much you appreciate them.
    • Email regular impact updates, including your annual impact report, and offer to meet together to collaborate on shared goals moving forward.

Stay Connected With The People In Your Corner

Our mission is to take the hassle out of admin work, so you can focus on doing what you do best: changing the world! With helpful features like donor acquisition tracking and automated communication, you’ll never have to worry about missing a chance to engage with supporters again. Plus, Givecloud brings all the tools your charity uses into a single platform, so you won’t waste any time managing multiple systems.