4 Fundraising Strategies for Improving Donor Engagement

4 Fundraising Strategies for Improving Donor Engagement Engagement

Your nonprofit seeks out and markets to donors to raise funds for your mission. However, the relationship between donors and your nonprofit doesn’t solely revolve around the exchange of money. If the relationship feels transactional, your donors may feel less connected to your cause and seek out other nonprofits to support.

Thankfully, effective fundraising and donor engagement go hand-in-hand. Think about cultivating your relationships with donors as a fundamental aspect of your fundraising strategy, not just a tangential component when compared to generating marketing materials and attracting new donors.

Continuous donor engagement is actually more cost-effective than bringing in new donors, as donors who have been with your nonprofit for a long period of time are likely to give more as their relationship with your nonprofit grows.

Our team of fundraising consultants at Donorly focuses heavily on researching nonprofit donors to help grow small organizations’ revenue beyond their expectations. To help your fundraising team improve its current donor engagement rates, we’ve put together this article to discuss key four strategies:

  1. Host a Variety of Events
  2. Create an Accessible Website
  3. Personalize Communication
  4. Ask for Feedback

This variety of tactics can give your nonprofit a range of options to improve multiple aspects of its approach to donor engagement. Take a moment to assess your nonprofit’s current donor engagement practices to identify both places of improvement and successes that could be expanded upon with a little guidance.

1. Host a Variety of Events

Fundraising events are an investment of time and resources, but, in addition to bringing in donations, they are key opportunities to encourage your supporters to get involved with your nonprofit. As you plan your event calendar, keep your range of supporters in mind so you can host events that appeal to almost every demographic with different types of events.

If you have supporters all across the country, planning both in-person and virtual events will give all of your donors an opportunity to engage with your nonprofit. Some events lend themselves to virtual and hybrid participation more than others. For example, while silent auctions can be entirely virtual, a 5K run requires a more innovative approach to move online.

In addition to virtual and in-person considerations, as you plan your events take into account:

  • Supporters’ ability to give. Your event fundraising strategies should take your audience’s giving capacities into consideration. If an event is targeting a very specific segment of your base, study their average gift amounts to make appropriate asks. Some events can offer giving and engagement opportunities for donors at a variety of income levels. For example, at your auction, high-value items will attract attention from major and mid-range donors whereas lower and medium value items can still keep your average donors engaged through the event.

  • Required technology. Whether in-person or online, events increasingly need digital support. Registration forms, ticketing, and live-streaming software can improve your donors’ experience by creating smooth check-in procedures that allow them to quickly get to the event.

  • Activity schedule. While your events are for fundraising, an event that is solely about donating to your nonprofit is unlikely to hold your supporters’ interest. Offer a variety of activities and engagement opportunities between speeches honoring donors and calling for donations, so supporters feel like they are part of a dynamic community rather than an ATM. Successful events can also help spread the word about your nonprofit through word of mouth as your attendees tell their friends and family about their favorite parts of your event.

Remember to always follow-up after your events to thank donors for attending, whether they ended up giving at your event or not. Take pictures during the event to post online and share with supporters who attended. Photos can also be used to market your future events by reminding donors how much fun they had the last time they attended.

2. Create an Accessible Website

Your website is one of your most valuable modern tools for donor engagement. Supporters visit your website to donate, volunteer, and stay updated on your nonprofit’s recent activities. You can further encourage engagement by optimizing your website to meet accessibility standards and increase your potential audience.

Following accessibility guidelines improves your website for all users. In addition to letting visitors using screen readers or other assistive technology engage with your website, many of the core accessibility principles revolve around creating a clear navigation system, easy to read text, and appealing visuals.

DNL Onmedia’s guide to nonprofit website accessibility outlines a few key principles for improving your website’s usability:

  • Create an intuitive navigation. Put yourself in your website’s visitors’ shoes and consider how they will interact with your website. Decide which of your pages are the most important for visitors to find and create links for them in your navigation bar, so visitors can navigate to the pages they need in as few clicks as possible. Many nonprofits create brightly colored donation or volunteer buttons that they feature on every page of their website to ensure donors never miss it. If there is a specific engagement activity you want to encourage, consider adding it to your navigation bar.

  • Optimize forms. Your donors will need to fill out a form of some kind almost every time they engage with your nonprofit. Whether they are registering for an event, subscribing to your newsletter, or donating, they’ll need to enter their information into designated fields. You can improve this experience by clearly labeling each required information field with more than one indicator (for example, using the color red and an asterisk), and limiting your questions to keep your form to a single page, making it easy to complete.

  • Clean up your visual design. Pictures, interactive media, and other graphic design elements help you guide your visitors’ eyes around your page. Avoid cluttering your homepage with too many visual elements by strategically placing white space between columns, rows, and other divisions in your content. Limiting your visuals also will cause your visitors to be attracted to the parts of your homepage that do have visual flair, allowing you to subtly direct their engagement as they use your website.

Your website should encourage engagement, rather than be an obstacle your supporters have to surmount to interact with your nonprofit. An improved website will also lead to visitors being more eager to engage with any content you do post on there, which opens the donors for adding evergreen content such as webinars.

3. Personalize Communication

If a donor feels they have a personal connection with your nonprofit, they are more likely to stick around and participate in your nonprofit’s community. While having one-on-one conversations with every donor is near impossible, you can personalize your communication so each donor gets a unique experience when they interact with your nonprofit.

In addition to tracking basic personal information such as your donor’s name and contact information, use other software tools at your nonprofit’s disposal to learn more about your different types of segments of supporters so that you can approach them appropriately.

For instance, donor prospect research tools can help you identify supporters who have the potential to become major donors, who in turn can benefit from a more hands-on approach than other donors. This doesn’t mean your regular donors should be ignored, but rather that your nonprofit should identify opportunities to receive major gifts and look for corresponding engagement opportunities.

You can also engage donors in small ways through your communication tools. Address every supporter by name through their preferred communication channel and reference their previous engagement history to show that your nonprofit acknowledges and appreciates their past participation.

4. Ask for Feedback

Often the best way to know how donors feel about your nonprofit is to ask them. You don’t need to incorporate every suggestion you receive from your donors, but being asked lets them know that your nonprofit cares about their experience with your organization.

Survey the donors whose experience you want to know the most about. For example, new donors may help give insight into how they discovered your nonprofit, but they might not have formed an opinion on how they feel about their current engagement level. By contrast, donors who have been with your nonprofit for years might be less concerned about marketing materials and more interested in your event calendar.

For each major fundraising effort that you launch, take the time afterwards to assess its impact on your supporters and determine how it affected engagement rates. When you create a new fundraising plan, consider past donor interactivity to set an attainable goal that makes sense with your nonprofit’s large-scale growth goals.

Additionally, make sure that following up with donors and gathering their input is scheduled into your fundraising plan, not an afterthought. Online fundraising resources like this one often come with timeline templates your nonprofit can use to set dates and expectations for every part of your campaign, including follow-up.

For example, this fundraising timeline template for a capital campaign divides every part of its fundraiser (including follow-up) into timeframe, key tasks and events, and anticipated expenses. Consider not just when you reach out to your supporters after a fundraiser, but what you need to do ahead of time to gain valuable results from your follow-up.


Higher donor engagement directly leads to increased fundraising rates. This means your donor relations are an integral component of your fundraising strategies. Donor preferences and motivations should be taken into account as you consider how you plan your event calendar, talk to donors, and present your nonprofit.

Both sweeping changes to how you host events and subtle adjustments to your communication strategy can impact whether or not donors continue to engage with your nonprofit. Take inventory of your current practices, determine where improvements can be made, and don’t hesitate to seek help from both online resources and fundraising consultants if a bigger strategy update is needed.


Special thanks to Sandra Davis President of Donorly for sharing. As Founder and President Sandra Davis leads Donorly with 30 years of fundraising experience and leadership. Sandra has consulted on numerous capital campaigns, led strategic planning and feasibility study efforts, and managed board development and recruitment efforts, planned giving, special events, and annual giving programs. Under her leadership, Donorly has grown to support the fundraising efforts of over 75 clients to date.