I know a CEO who liked to say: I don’t need to worry about relationships to raise money. I walk out the door and I make money.

…And every time she would say this her fundraising team would shake their heads because they knew, as we all know, nothing is more critical to fundraising success than a strong relationship with your donors.

Can you, as my storied CEO liked to say, ‘walk out the door and make money’?

Sure you can.

However, the better question is: Can you walk out the door and get money from the same donors year after year?

Sure you can, but not without strong relationships. A Customer (or donor) Relationship Management (CRM) is an essential tool in any sustainable fundraising program but a CRM plan takes time and the commitment from your entire team.

Here are three easy tips to start building your CRM program:

1. Send a stuffed monkey.

I once worked with a donor who told me she liked to send the Curious George books and stuffed animal to her friends who had babies but that she had trouble finding the stuffed George in stores. A year later, when her daughter had a baby, I went online, ordered the stuffed animal, and sent it to her with a note congratulating her on becoming a grandmother.

Donors want to feel special. They want to feel like you are listening to them. The best way to accomplish this is to start tracking things like their interests, the names of their children and/or pets, and their birthdays in your donor database.

2. Throw some glitter in the air.

I love glitter. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but anyone with an internet connection can learn that about me in less than a minute.

Why is that important?

Because when a cold caller mentions glitter in his introduction I know he has done his homework. He is committed to getting to know me, not just my bank account. Cold calling is a part of being a fundraiser. We are always seeking to expand our donor base. And that first call is critical. To help you and your prospective donor ease into this new relationship, make sure you do a little research. What do I mean by that? Simply stated: Google them.

3. Maintain eye contact.

A few years ago I worked with a local nonprofit facing some financial challenges. One of the decisions made to help tighten the budgetary belt was to reduce the size of the fundraising team and conduct all donor interactions electronically. Face-to-face interactions were replaced with increased emails and a more “robust” website.

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to interact with your donors on a regular basis through electronic channels. However, nothing can ever replace face-to-face interactions for relationship development. Having a list of key donors with whom you meet on a regular basis can help you grow your loyal donor base and steward new donors to your organization.

Like any relationship, donor relationships take time and effort. While the individual actions might seem simple – sending a monkey, discussing the merits of glitter, or simply sitting down for a cup of coffee – the payoff can be huge! Take the time to get to know your donors – not as bank accounts, but as people. I promise it’s worth the effort.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Holly Elizabeth Herbert is the best practices manager for Blackbaud’s eTapestry team. She works with nonprofit clients to optimize their fundraising and public relations efforts through the application of database technology. Holly has more than a decade of experience working in nonprofit PR and fundraising and brings a passion for metrics-driven, donor-centric strategies to her work at Blackbaud. Holly has a Master’s degree in Public Relations from Indiana University and has worked on PR campaigns for local, regional, and national nonprofit organizations. In her free time, Holly is an avid urban dweller and glitter aficionado. Connect with Holly on Twitter at @hollyeherbert.

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