1) The Big Picture
It’s important to reiterate the need for small organizations to keep an eye on the big picture. While it’s necessary to continually benchmark against other organizations, every organization is unique and has its own goals and challenges. When comparing themselves to other organizations, nonprofits should remember to focus on the metrics that most closely pertain to their organization in order to measure their progress and refine their goals.

2) Expanding the base
It is true that all nonprofits share the goal of expanding their base of support; it may not be realistic for a smaller organization to expect to acquire 5,000 new donors in a year, no matter how much they are willing or able to invest in acquisition campaigns.

It is however, realistic to acquire a smaller number of new donors that have the potential to upgrade their giving and perform for the organization over time. It’s also realistic to focus on bringing more lapsed donors back onto the file. A focus on acquiring quality donors and deepening the connection with existing donors may serve the organization well over the long-term, gradually building and strengthening the base.

3) Cultivating relationships with donors
One of the benefits a smaller organization can take advantage of is the opportunity to get to know their donors. Within smaller organizations, development and fundraising staff often interact directly with donors at all levels of giving, offering a chance to connect with and cultivate donors and glean insight at the same time.

Utilizing these interactions and available program performance data, the organization can get a better sense of who their donors are and what resonates with them. Translating that understanding into personal communications helps to strengthen the bond further and lets donors know that not only does their support have an impact, but their input matters to the organization as well. It goes without saying that quickly acknowledging gifts (and even complaints) can go a long way to demonstrate how much an organization values its donors.

4) Retaining donors
Cultivation and retention go hand-in-hand. Nonprofits that are adept at stewarding and cultivating their donors are more likely to have higher retention rates. And In a sense, every communication sent from a nonprofit to donors is a cultivation touch. Finding a balance between cultivation and solicitation is often difficult to manage, especially when there are multiple vehicles of communication originating from different areas of the organization, including marketing, development, etc.

Coordinating a master communications calendar should be the foundation of a strategic fundraising and retention strategy. Timing and messaging of solicitations should be targeted so that donors understand the role they play. Renewals and appeals should demonstrate both the impact of support and the need for continued support.

For smaller nonprofits, growing the donor base incrementally and cultivating a committed core are essential to their overall success. Setting realistic goals for acquisition and focusing on cultivation and retention will enable organizations to benefit from the investment in their donors over time.