The email series that can turn one-time donors into long-term advocates


emails for donor engagament

What happens when your NGO receives funding from a donor? There’s usually a lot of interaction while the agreement is being discussed and practicalities are being settled. This is usually followed by a ‘Thank you’ in different forms and a blog or PR piece about the donation. And then? Usually, after around one month, the interaction decreases considerably as new donors are being pursued. However, just like in any business, acquiring a new donor is much more expensive than retaining one. While there are a range of factors that will lead to your donors’ next donation, online engagement always plays a key role in your NGO’s fundraising efforts. And it always has a powerful email series at its centre. Read on to find out what such a series looks like.

The ‘Thank you’ email

This is the most obvious one but the series always starts here and its importance cannot be emphasised enough. In this email you can express your gratitude for the donation and outline again how you are going to use it towards the cause you’re advocating for, even if that was already specified in the proposal or on your website. Emphasise the problem you’re addressing, the impact you’re expecting to make and how important the donation is in driving that impact.

The Community email

The role of this email is to put your NGO’s community in the spotlight by mentioning who else is supporting your cause and how. This doesn’t only give extra visibility to all your donors but, by showing there is a collective effort they are contributing to, it also confirms their own donation and connects them to something larger than themselves, which is key in creating a movement.

The Progress emails

Very often, NGOs don’t communicate anything about a project until they have something big to announce. This is bound to negatively impact donor relationships and significantly decrease their trust. So, even if the project is just getting started and you’re still in the discovery phase, there’s usually plenty to communicate. Think of sharing what you’re learning and what’s surprised you the most so far, stories that left a mark on you, interviews you’ve conducted, data you’ve gathered and patterns you’ve unveiled. All of this can be shared in the form of blogs, photos, videos, infographics, reports and more. So make sure not more than two months go by without your donors hearing from you.

You might think: won’t they find this boring? Don’t they just care about the big impact? Of course each donor’s preferred communication style needs to be considered and not every small step of the project has to make a headline but there’s a lot to be extracted for storytelling beyond the milestones that usually come to mind. In this way, you can keep your donors excited about the cause they’re contributing to and also show transparency in your communications.

The Milestone emails

These emails are key in proving the effectiveness of your projects. They can be about the extensive reach of your action, a change you’ve made in a policy, a mention in key media or by key influencers, a goal achieved before the deadline, an insightful knowledge resource coming out or an inspiring event being organised. Share your excitement with your donors and encourage them to spread the word. They will be happy to show their audience how their donations are contributing to impact.

The ‘Lessons learned’ emails

Not everything always goes smoothly in a project. Hiccups are perfectly normal and can even generate valuable learnings. Communicating the lessons learned to your donors proves transparency and shows the human element of your work. Think about it this way: it’s not even credible that it’s all roses all the time.

The ‘Looking back’ email

As your project is coming to an end, think of doing a recap of the key milestones and lessons learned, all culminating into the impact achieved. This is a key communication piece that will remind your donors once again of the importance of their donations and their role in your NGO’s community. It’s also a great opportunity to thank them again and for you to reflect and celebrate.

The Feedback email

This one is often forgotten but is key for improving future work and donor interaction. Ask your donors what they think about the project implementation and its results, the communications around the project, the aspects that stood out, the things to be improved and the likelihood of a future donation. Don’t be afraid to ask. Their feedback will help you excel in your next endeavours.

The ‘What’s next’ email

Now that the project has ended and the review phase is complete, it’s time to focus on your next projects. Share your plans with your donors, explain the reasoning behind your next steps, ask them what they think and, if they’ve expressed an interest in supporting your cause again, make sure to ask for their renewed cooperation.

Then start this process again. And again. And again.

Which of the emails mentioned above are you already using? Which ones do you think you’ll implement right away? Let me know in the comments below.

Need support in setting up creative email campaigns that will boost your fundraising? Get in touch now.

Published on 31 August 2018 by Laura Tufis.