Keeping Community Partnerships Going

So, you’ve increased the number of people and organizations supporting you, either financially, by volunteering, through leadership service, by referring clients to you, advocating for your cause, or promoting your agenda. You’ve worked hard to achieve as much support as you have. You have people on board that you want to stay on board. And, attract new supporters.

Say Thank You

The first thing you need to do is thank every single supporter for every act of support they make within 48 hours of receiving their support. Most nonprofits don’t do this. Make sure that you do. It is common courtesy to thank people when they have gone out of their way for you. They need to be acknowledged and appreciated for that. The number one thing you can do to ensure that supporters will continue to support you is to thank them.

And thank them a lot. Market research shows that it seven to ten times for a message to be remembered. That doesn’t mean send seven to ten thank you notes. That means to say thank you through a variety of channels over time. Hold an appreciation event. Send handwritten client notes. Have the board make phone calls. Thank them in your agency newsletters. Thank them at public events. Thank them individually and as a group each time you have opportunity. Thank supporters whenever you can. You want them to know how much you appreciate them. Thank, and thank again. No one has ever been offended by being authentically thanked too much.

Use the word ‘you’ liberally. Highlight impact. Focus on the needs they met. If you want your community supporters to act on your behalf again, give them what they want. Show them how they are the heroes in making the difference they desired.

Keep the Conversation Going

They key to retaining your supporters is to keep them engaged. People who are engaged are much more likely to repeat, and even increase, their involvement with you. So, how do you engage people in your cause?

Get to know your supporters. Make your interactions personal. Make it a two-way relationship. Ask questions. Answer questions. Tell them the results of what they did and how their time, talent, or treasure made a difference. Give them feedback so they know their collective impact. Ask for feedback on how the experiences went. Ask them what is meaningful to them and act on their responses. Let them know how important that relationship is to you. Talk to your supporters through text, email, social media posts, newsletter articles, public speeches, and press releases. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Engage your supporters in continuous conversation.

Follow Up with Action

Then go beyond conversation. Listen to your supporters and respond to them by structuring meaningful experiences for them. Find out what the motivation is behind their actions and structure experiences involving them that meet whatever is driving them to respond to you. Don’t assume you know what they want. Their wants and needs may change over time. Ask them again and again to give feedback, always thanking them for it. Listen to your supporters and respond to them beyond a simple conversation.

 Once you start a two-way relationship, continue it. Ask them to do something else to support you, like share a social media post, attend a community event, sign a petition, ask a neighbor to join them at an event, or make a donation. Take the relationship to the next level. Then thank, thank, thank, and thank again. Start the engagement process all over again. Thank them, no matter what their contribution. Show them how they made a difference. Ask for feedback. Respond to their motivations. Structure a meaningful experience. Deepen the relationship. Make the relationship stronger. Strong relationships with community supporters not only lead to repeated support, they often mean more support. Think about how that will improve your standing in the community.

Plan for Change

Of course, the only constant is change. If you are building for the long-term, your supporters’ needs will change over time. To get ahead of those changes, have your eyes and ears peeled to the community. Constantly scan the societal environment. Regularly get feedback from the community as well as your supporters. We talked about getting community feedback in What Does the Community Really Think of Your Nonprofit?

And plan for the future. Take the feedback and plan for going in new directions, exploring contingencies in case those plans fall through. Engage in strategic planning. And regularly update your plan. Studies have shown that nonprofits with written, updated strategic plans realize better financial and program outcomes.    

Wrapping It Up

So continually thank your supporters. Engage them in conversation. Create meaningful experiences for them based on their feedback. Deepen the relationship by asking them to broaden their commitment. And plan for changes over time.

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