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5 Ways to Stay Connected with Donors Digitally

Samantha Hunter
Published:  08/17/2021
Cellphone laying on a tablePhoto by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

There’s no doubt, over the past year and a half, digital fundraising has become a necessity for all organizations. With the vaccine rollout many people are returning to work, beginning to travel, and starting to attend events in-person again. 

But there are still a lot of people that are hesitant to attend large in-person gatherings or events. Some out of continued concerns from COVID-19 and others because they simply enjoy the digital options that grew out of necessity. All of this means that it’s still important to engage with donors digitally even as we move away from the stay-at-home requirements from this time last year. 

It’s not only important for engaging with donors who don’t quite feel ready to return to pre-pandemic life, but also because digital efforts are oftentimes much more effective than other donor engagement efforts. You have a broader reach online versus in person, and you also get access to better data and reporting.

When it comes to fundraising, how to connect with your donors requires more creativity right now than ever. If you’ve had to cancel yet another in-person event, or are simply looking for new ways to engage with your donor base, check out a few of these best practices to engage with your audience without meeting in person.

1. Re-imagine in-person stewardship events

It can be challenging to engage with donors that are used to the way your organization used to do things. Let's say, for example, you used to invite donors to come to the hospital and meet face-to-face with physicians at your organization to hear stories about their specialty or how their work has impacted patients directly. 

You can re-imagine these historically in-person events as a virtual offering. Interview physicians or healthcare providers and then share the videos on your social media channels. This gives you the opportunity to not only reach the people that would have attended in-person, but you can engage with an even larger audience.

2. Create patient story vignettes

Most donors like to hear about the real-life impact of their donations and the work that the hospital or health system is doing. Patient stories are an excellent way to highlight the impact that your organization is making on the community. Creating short video vignettes of patients telling their story, is a great way to bring the work you do to life. 

Remember to try to keep these videos as short as you can while still telling the story. The rule of thumb is to keep it under two minutes to see the best results. Share these videos as far and wide as you can, and many times, your network will do the same, letting you reach an audience you normally wouldn't. 

3. For webinars, turn your cameras on

Webinars are likely something that you've been doing for years, but more often than not, they are hour-long slide deck presentations with a presenter narrating. Don’t be afraid to have presenters turn their cameras on. As a viewer, it’s much more engaging to see the person that’s talking to you instead of only seeing slides and a voiceover. If you’re worried about how to pull this off, check out these 7 tips to use cameras effectively.

4. Host a virtual event

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a 1:1 replacement of a large in-person event that you have hosted in the past. It can be something as simple as an Instagram Live video or a virtual happy hour for a specific donor audience you are trying to engage with. The goal here is to find a way to connect with donors in real-time and to make it interactive. 

If you are looking to adapt an event like a gala, you should read this post from a fellow AHP member. It includes best practices from Inova Health System on how they adapted their largest annual in-person event to something entirely virtual.

5. Update your email strategy 

Though email marketing may feel like old news, it would be a mistake to ignore it. According to a study by Campaign Monitor, the ROI for email marketing can be as high as 4400%. That’s $44 for every $1 spent.

Donors are probably receiving more emails than ever before from every organization they engage with, so you need to think about how you can stand out. You need to think about what your donors want to hear right now. Make sure all of your messaging is timely and relevant to things happening in the community right now. For more ideas on how to refresh your email strategy, check out this post

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are thinking about how to best connect with your audience is to realize you can't just replace things that you used to do in-person with something online. You have to make sure that it’s a positive change for the donor. Every discussion that you have internally, should focus on how to make things better for donors. 

If you want to learn more about how to better engage with your audience digitally, or other recommendations for connecting with donors from a distance, check out this webinar.

NEWS  /01/13/21
People prefer to give online more than any other way. Upgrade to digital fundraising tactics to meet donors where they are.
NEWS  /01/27/21
Learn how Inova Health System adapted its annual fundraising gala to a virtual event
NEWS  /04/27/21
Five proven email marketing tactics to better engage with your donors.

Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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