Genius Expert: Make the Most of Your Nonprofit Donor Relationships

nonprofit donor relationships donations giving expert advice fundraising tips

Jeff Gordy is the co-Founder and CEO of Z2 Systems, Inc., the makers of NeonCRM for nonprofits. Since 2004, Jeff and his team have worked to build the optimal fundraising, CRM database and marketing solution for nonprofits. Before starting the company, Jeff worked for the Kidney Cancer Association, where he learned firsthand that nonprofits needed better software solutions.

nonprofit donor relationships donations giving expert advice fundraising tips
Jeff Gordy
SignUpGenius: What are the biggest mistakes you see nonprofits make when it comes to donor relationships?

Gordy: Nonprofits need to take into account that donors are people with their own lives and nuances and quirks. They’re not just a check that comes in the mail once a year or an online donation that came in on Giving Tuesday. By understanding who a donor actually is beyond just their donation, an organization will be able to build a real and sustainable relationship with them.

SUG: What type of donor data is most useful to see integrated in one place?

Gordy: In 2006, the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute established the Fundraising Effectiveness Project to conduct research on fundraising effectiveness and help nonprofit organizations increase their fundraising results at a faster pace.
While there’s a lot of focus on retention by some software companies, the reality is that donor data needs to go beyond that. I recently outlined the types of specific metrics a nonprofit should care about.

SUG: What are some key steps nonprofits can take to improve donor retention?

Gordy: Meaningful communication. The reality is that 53% of donors cite poor communication as the reason they don’t give again to a nonprofit, so take a hard look at the types of messaging you’re doing and ensure that it is donor focused, not focused on your organization.
By making the donor the hero in your appeals, you get them emotionally invested and therefore more open to giving again. The other key factor is ease of making a donation. If you have a confusing or frustrating process on your website for online donations or instructions for sending in a check, you're going to lose that person — no matter how passionate they are. 

SUG: What stories should nonprofits be telling to spread news about their mission in the community?

Gordy: We’ve seen consistently that using authentic imagery and actual quotes from those affected by your mission will have a direct and positive impact on giving levels. The ability to be concise and strikingly visual is important.
We work with a lot of great consultants, and one of our favorites is Shuling Yong, a specialist in video storytelling. As she says, “When you evoke emotion in your communications, your message will stick more easily.”

SUG: Any tips for annual planning as nonprofits wrap up their year and start charting a path for the next one?

Gordy: Keep track of your successes and your areas for improvement. The ability to set benchmarks for success based on past data is something that sometimes gets lost in the mad rush of giving that comes in the last few weeks of the year.
Our staff member Tim Sarrantonio ran an annual campaign that brought in over $2 million and actually wrote about this in an ebook we put out because so many nonprofits struggle with this exact question.

Thanks to Jeff for sharing his expertise. Learn more about how you can connect your Neon CRM and SignUpGenius accounts with Zapier integrations. 

Learn More