The Responsive Fundraising Framework You Need to Connect with Your Donors


By Noah Barnett, Chief Marketing Officer at Virtuous

How do you choose a new dentist, find a groomer for your newly adopted rescue dog, or purchase your first gas stove?

For most of us, the answer is very different than it was twenty years ago. These days, we read reviews or solicit opinions from our friends and family on social media. Then, we make educated choices.

The internet and social connectivity created an empowered consumer population. Information is readily available without institutions holding all the keys to accessing it. Consumers are in power.

Successful brands responded to this new dynamic by improving customer experiences. They created personalized experiences to build trust and loyalty. They prioritized value and convenience over everything else.

Think about it: You get an email (or text) with exclusive deals when you leave an item unpurchased in your online shopping cart. Your favorite brands suggest items you might like based on products you’ve browsed. Streaming services curate collections of new releases based on your previous viewing. Growing brands are using available information and your interactions to create unique connections. Consumer decisions are fueled by connections.

Your donors, volunteers, and advocates have the same democratized access to information, and thus, make philanthropic decisions and choose nonprofits in a similar way. Donors, like consumers, trust people and connections over institutional prowess or messaging. Supporters expect personal and relevant engagement.

How do you give them that experience? Responsive fundraising.

A Fresh Lens: The Responsive Framework

Philanthropy is deeply personal. Why people give is about more than money. For modern donors, philanthropy is a statement about what they value and who they are. Organizations and causes supported are part of their identity. Personalized donor experiences, instead of generic mass messaging, honor their uniqueness, and inspire loyalty and trust.

Being responsive turns the traditional nonprofit-donor relationship upside-down. The donor leads their participation. They choose how and where to interact with the nonprofit, and the organization listens, connects, and then suggests next steps.

The Responsive Fundraising Framework relies on three actions: Listen, Connect, Suggest. 

  • The organization listens to donor signals, identifying preferences and interests.
  • They connect with meaningful communication through the most relevant channels.
  • The organization suggests ways to engage further, including giving.

If it feels familiar, that’s because you’re likely already responsive with major donors. You determine their interests, develop a relationship, and make an appropriate ask. Responsive fundraising uses technology to universalize the major donor experience.

The Technology You Need To Be Responsive

If you’re picturing sending personal emails one-by-one, and taking every $5 donor out for coffee, you may be skeptical about how practical responsive fundraising is. Don’t worry, responsive fundraising relies on the smart use of technology, not a ton of individual actions.

Personalized donor journeys are created with data and automation. To be responsive, you need technology to support you. Here are the three most important tools to equip your team with in order to be a responsive nonprofit.

1. Responsive CRM

Is your donor database essentially a data junk drawer? Do you find yourself digging around in it, looking for a piece of information you know you just looked at? This technology is limiting your ability to respond to your donors.

Instead of a junk drawer, you need something more powerful and user-friendly. A responsive CRM uses data to craft comprehensive donor profiles, robust reporting, engagement tracking, and predictive recommendations. It can signal when to make your next ask, identify your most important contacts to call, and even score your contacts based on social and wealth data.

The right CRM software will alleviate the demands of your team members, not add complexity to their daily responsibilities.

2. Marketing Automation

With marketing automation your supporters get the right communication at the right time based on their behavior. You create workflows with automatic actions that are triggered based on donor behavior. Each sequence runs automatically to nurture donors to the next best step with your cause.

Automation makes it easier to connect with donors in a meaningful way on a regular basis, without spending all your time doing so. Emails, mail, social media, and calls can all be executed automatically, giving your team space to do the big-picture thinking necessary to create deeper connections and inspire greater generosity.

3. Data Enrichment

When you pull in data from other sources to supplement your own data, you make it richer and more useful. Data enrichment includes:

  • Survey Responses – When donors give you additional information, keep it!
  • Social Listening – Monitoring online conversations about your organization and cause, then taking action based on what you learn
  • Wealth Data – Prospect research and wealth screening enrich your data.
  • Relationship Mapping – Understanding how your donors connect with each other, where they are geographically located, and how they may be grouped

Be Responsive

Responsive fundraising puts the donor at the center of their engagement and grows giving through personalized donor journeys. The responsive approach builds trust and loyalty through personalized engagement.

Instead of blasting out impersonal mass communication that interrupts your donors and steals their attention, responsive fundraising combines modern technology, data intelligence, and donor-centric giving experiences to foster personalized conversations with every donor.

Connecting with each person in a contextual way allows you to suggest the right “next step” at the right time, increasing donor loyalty. This grows generosity and helps you do more good.

In other words, responsive fundraising allows you to step into this new hyper-connected world and build authentic relationships with everyday donors.