How does an NGO get a donor

Authentic donor relationships - this is how it works!

Successful donor relationships are based on appreciation. "Golden donation" or honest feedback: If you believe in the importance of your sponsors, authentic relationships will succeed. To this end, your NGO's communication should be clearly geared towards transparency.

By Steven Shattuck / German by Rico Stehfest

Incorrect or half-hearted attempts to establish a connection or to communicate are very easy to see through. Therefore, it is critical to develop a strategic approach that will help you create these relationships authentically. If you understand, for example, that sponsors may not be able to donate at a certain moment, but you still pursue your own project plans and keep in touch with the sponsors, you are showing how important your own work is to you .

Why authentic relationships are so important

Build your donor relationships on a strong foundation!

The second donation made by a sponsor of an NGO is considered a "golden donation" because the rate of donor retention tends to be much lower for new donors than for those who have already donated several times. If you start with a strong base, you increase the chances of receiving that "golden donation" and thus increase the chances that the donor will repeatedly support your organization in the future. So if you want to increase your donor retention rate through donor relationships, build loyalty from the start!

Calling your donors is a great way to create such a relationship in a positive way. American studies show that donors who were called within 90 days have a significantly higher retention rate and often even double the amount in their second donation. So when donors make a first-time donation to your NGO, be sure to establish a strong base for further development by expressing personal appreciation!

Collect and save information!

In any case, you should also save the information you can gather about your sponsors in your database. In this way, at future meetings, be it face-to-face, by e-mail or over the phone, you can have personalized conversations and take up the individual interests and previous donation behavior of the individual person.

Remember that donor relationships are built on transparency!

One of the most important aspects that contribute to the success of a relationship (with everyone) is trust. If your donors feel they cannot trust your organization, they will stop supporting. You can increase the level of trust of your donors via the level of transparency, because transparency is not a one-way street. Offer your donors opportunities to be open about their opinions about your organization!

Encourage your donors to take surveys and provide honest feedback on your work! In the next step, you should take this feedback seriously. By responding to suggestions that reinforce your work, you are showing that you value the opinions of your donors. This gives your sponsors the feeling of a real partnership on an equal footing. In addition, you should maintain a transparent relationship with the donors yourself. Many of the reasons donors stop making donations can be prevented if an NGO is transparent about it.

Inadequate communication

Various studies have shown that donors surveyed stated that they no longer donate because they found the communication from the NGO to be inadequate, because they did not find out how their donation was used or even because the donors felt they were theirs Support is no longer needed. This shows that increased communication already helps to retain donors over a longer period of time. Relevant information should be communicated effectively.

For example, you should be able to tell your donors about the successes (and failures) of your most recent fundraising campaign. And of course you should also be able to report on the effects your work has on the respective community. To increase the transparency of your own impact and to be able to show how the donations make a difference in concrete terms are convincing reasons for donors to donate repeatedly.

Design your donor relationships through effective communication!

In order to be able to guarantee the aforementioned transparency, you need an effective communication strategy for your NGO. If your donors don't respond to your messages, there is a gap between your transparency and your general delivery of information. Therefore, you should thoroughly examine different communication platforms to see how your sponsors behave there and how they react to information from your organization with regard to the specifics of the platform.

Communication adapted to the platform

Make sure your communication strategy is geared towards providing your donors with all the information they need to keep in touch with your organization. For example, report on planned campaigns, events, online seminars or other opportunities in which your donors can get involved.

Do not communicate the same on all platforms! Instead, adapt your information to the character of the respective platform. Aspects that play a role here are, for example, e-mails, the embedding or linking of websites, videos or annual reports.


Emails are ideal for conveying more extensive content. This allows you to send content directly to your donors. So your donors don't stumble across it by accident. This means that there is a good chance that your information will get the attention it needs.


But don't send emails too often or your sponsors will stop reading the messages. At the same time, you should receive enough emails from your NGO to keep you “on screen”.

Generally speaking, one email a week should be enough to keep you in touch.

Last but not least, make sure that your emails contain relevant information. Don't just email your donors for their own sake! Newsletters, program updates, event reminders and requests for donations are some examples of useful content. Keeping your content fresh if you keep switching between issues.


When backers want to learn more about your organization, the first thing they will do is go to your website. So make sure that you provide all relevant information there and that it is kept up to date. You can make it easier for your donors to find content by sorting them according to different topics or setting up sub-pages or special landing pages for (recurring) events.

Video meetings

Video meetings offer the special opportunity to come into contact with your donors via image and sound. You can also use the direct exchange here. See this digital tool as an opportunity to meet your donors in person! This type of meeting is convenient for both parties and represents a personal connection that you can offer in addition to face-to-face meetings.

Social media

Social media is a great way for your NGO to establish the right brand awareness among the public. You should therefore develop a specific strategy for social media that meets your specific goals on the respective platform so that you actually reach your target group.

Invite your sponsors to communicate with you in a targeted manner on social media by setting up a hashtag for your organization. Or put videos online that are particularly exciting and can attract the attention of your target group. Use Instagram and Facebook Stories to reach younger target groups and regularly post short, entertaining updates or "fun facts" about your NGO.

Annual report

Your organization's annual report is an annual opportunity to delve deeply into the activities you have accomplished over the year and to highlight your fundraising achievements. For example, you have the opportunity to strengthen donor relationships by highlighting important sponsors. The choice of words should be geared towards you, i.e. it should show the achievements that the sponsors have achieved through their support.

When building donor relationships, don't underestimate the power of appreciation!

You are probably aware that you should send your supporters a thank you message after they have made a donation. This shows immediate appreciation and confirms receipt of the donation.

Take this message to the next level and personalize it with the name of the donor and the exact amount of the donation. While this news is a great way to start showing appreciation for your donors, it is still far from the ultimate solution. You should go further to show how much you care about your sponsors. This is the only way you can build the kind of relationship you want from your organization and your donors themselves. How to keep your donors. Various strategies are available for this:

  • Call your donors!
  • Offer video conferencing to show your appreciation!
    Organize (virtual) events to thank your sponsors without asking for donations!
  • Write a handwritten letter to thank your donors!
  • Address your donors directly via social media or in your annual report!
  • Send out small gifts or vouchers in response to a donation!
  • Get creative with the strategies you can use to express your appreciation for your sponsors! Make sure you give a good insight into the impact donors are creating on your philanthropic mission!

For example, you can formulate a thank you as follows:

Thank you, Cordula, for your donation of 100 euros for our “Save the Whales” campaign. Your generous contribution enables us to feed our injured orca Sammy for the coming month. Sammy and we thank you for that!

This message is useful and effective as it gives the name of the donor, the amount of donation made and the impact it has on the work of the organization. In addition, the person who benefits from the donation has their say (Sammy).

Your donors will notice when you deal with them authentically. Truly believing in the value your donors bring to your NGO is a prerequisite for being able to convey what your donors actually mean to you. Ultimately, without this wonderful support, you would not be able to accomplish your mission. Keep an eye on your donors and your relationship with you and use the right management software for this.

Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer for the US provider of donor software Bloomerang. He is co-author of the book "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition". He is a member of the committee at the AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation and the advisory board of the Institute for Charitable Giving.

Photo: pxhere

There are more practical tips and ideas about donations for clubs, organizations and foundations in the printed booklet. The fundraiser magazine is not available at the kiosk, only exclusively from the publisher. You can order here.