Since my early days as a Development Director, I have paid close attention to my personal donor experiences. This includes how easy an organization makes it for me to donate and the follow-up that I receive after.  Sometimes the thank you is prompt, creative, and engaging. Other times it comes a little late. Then there are times that I hear nothing until I receive another solicitation in the mail. Ouch!

Thank you letters always come up when I talk about fundraising best practices with nonprofit clients. However, thank yous are just one piece of a broad donor communications plan that impacts many parts of your organization. Donor communications reflect your organization’s commitment to building trust and being transparent. The stories you tell and the information you share sends a message about your long-term viability, growth, and community impact. So, what message is your organization sending?

Transparency Matters

A recent Bloomerang article stated that 70% of first-time nonprofit donors won’t make a second gift. With a statistic like this, it is increasingly important for your organization to build a relationship with donors that inspires ongoing support. As such, open communication and transparency are key.

What’s the big deal about transparency, anyway?  Transparency helps your organization:

  • Build confidence in current and prospective donors. No one should have to jump through hoops to understand who you are and what you do.
  • Increase donor commitment by clearly demonstrating how donations help to move your mission forward.
  • Disseminate information effectively. Transparency makes it easy for your supporters to gather stories to share within their circles, which increases the opportunities for new supporters.

Here are 6 Tips To Increase Your Nonprofit’s Transparency

  • Dedicate a page on your website for financial information. Include your most recent Annual Report. Provide easy access to your IRS 990 forms. Share a link to your charity seal and/or rating. Provide stories of impact. Demonstrate how donor funds have been used to help fulfill your mission. If you don’t have all these things readily available, that’s okay. Start with what you have and then create a plan to complete the other tasks. If you don’t currently have a charity seal or ranking, here are two resources to start the process: Candid’s GuideStar and Charity Navigator.
  • List staff and board members on your website. Don’t bury this information!  Include contact information for staff. It needs to be easy for people to get in touch and ask questions!
  • Focus on stewardship. After a gift is made, follow best practices for thanking donors. Continue connecting with donors throughout the year to share stories of impact. This may include an invitation for a facility tour, an invite to a special event, or a phone call to say thank you.
  • Be honest about your challenges and opportunities. Your supporters are savvy. They know every organization faces challenges. Don’t be afraid to share what those challenges are and how supporters can help.
  • Adopt a Donor Bill of Rights and Donor Privacy Statement. These policies help create an organizational culture that respects donor intent, privacy, and ethical philanthropic practices.
  • Make your strategic plan and long-term goals accessible. This should include a clearly defined mission. Supporters are essential to helping you achieve your goals. They need to be able to share in your vision and visualize the path to success. Likewise, provide ongoing updates as to the status of your goals. Celebrate the successes publicly via your website, email, and social media.

As you work to apply these tips to your organization, I encourage you to also utilize time at a staff and board meeting to talk about transparency. Get feedback from those close to you about how your organization can improve communication, strengthen relationships, and continue working towards a culture that supports transparency.

If you want to talk more about this topic, reach out. I’d love to continue the conversation!

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