It’s a rule of thumb that good communication is the foundation of a solid relationship, and it’s particularly true for the relationships that organizations develop with their donors.  Organizations that communicate consistently and effectively—through multiple channels—cultivate solid relationships, period, regardless of whether a particular communication is intended to result in a gift.  Consistency helps keep your organization a priority in the mind of the donor.  And while some organizations worry about communicating too much, it would be a mistake to let this assumption get in the way of a solid direct marketing strategy.

Think about it.  With all the worthy charities and organizations that are trying to engage donors, Mrs. Donor sent a gift to you. That’s most likely because you made Mrs. Donor feel like you needed her, and you do. Now you need to communicate with Mrs. Donor to let her know that she’s a true partner in your mission! She’s not going to send a gift in response to every appeal or email or wallet flap inserted in her newsletter—but she might…if you consistently let her know that, without her, all the good work your organization is doing simply wouldn’t be possible.

And while limited staff and resources can make it difficult to develop and implement regular communications, especially fundraising appeals, it’s essential that you do.  It’s easier to make the case for the investment when results clearly indicate  its success, but organizations have to commit themselves for the long haul and maintain their strategy, even if results don’t always hit projections.  For organizations that are not communicating regularly, getting on a consistent schedule will ultimately make a difference.

The proof, however, is in the data.

The results below are for a healthcare client who had let its annual communications slip. Limited resources had led to inconsistent messaging.  That changed in FY14, when a comprehensive, multi-channel communications plan was set in place. Look at the remarkable results below in the 0-6 months and 0-12 months donor segments:

Time of Last Gift                  # Mailed               # Resp.                % Resp.
Within 0-6 Months




Within 7-12 Months




Within 13-18 Months




Within 19-24 Months




Within 25-36 Months




Another healthcare client’s limited staff and budget resources had been impediments to getting the mail out on a consistent basis for a couple of years.  But they committed to a fundraising campaign, knowing that it would be an investment of time and resources and that the data acquired would help develop benchmarks for refining their overall strategy. The campaign would also serve as the second effort in a concerted strategy to connect regularly with donors and lapsed donors.  Finally, it would provide an opportunity to engage grateful patients and analyze responsiveness by treatment location and medical specialty, and it could refine their efforts, with the potential to drop unproductive segments in future mailings.

While a single campaign and set of data are just pieces of an overall communication and fundraising strategy, your ability to continue the momentum and refine the next effort are just some of the benefits that result from communicating consistently with donors.

Special Content: The Roadmap to Recovery

As nonprofits everywhere face unprecedented challenges, S&W is stepping forward to help—working on rapid response strategies with our clients, curating resources for easy access, offering answers from our expert team, and bringing people together from across the nonprofit world to share ideas. The point, as we say, is Powering Missions That Matter—now at the moment they matter most.

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