4 min read
How Do You Turn Your Donors Into Advocates?

By Abby Jarvis

Donors who stay engaged with your work and give regularly are amazing. Donors who stay engaged with your work and give regularly and get other people involved, too, are even better!

Turning your donors into advocates is one of the key secrets to building a sustainable fundraising base. You fundraising staff brings in new potential donors, but they’ll never be able to reach everyone in your donors’ networks. But your reach expands exponentially if your donors are willing to spread the news about your organization to their friends, families, and co-workers. How do you get them to do that? There are lots of different things you can do to turn your donors into advocates. Here are some of our favorites!

Make your donors feel frickin’ amazing

The #1 way to get donors to share your organization with their friends and family is to make them love you. And the way you make donors love you is by loving them. Make your donors feel amazing about supporting your work! Giving them a fantastic experience before, during, and after the donation process increases the likelihood that they’ll give again. It also increases the chances that they’ll tell others about the work you do and why they got involved! Here are some simple ways to make your donors feel personally connected to your organization:

Say thank you immediately

You can’t say “thank you” enough, I promise. Create an eye-catching, up-beat donation confirmation page that is focused on making your donor feel great about their gift. Include a colorful, high-quality image that will reinforce the good feelings they’ll have immediately after giving.

Get social

Take notes from commercial crowdfunding sites and give donors a way to share that they gave. Include social sharing options on your thank-you page with a (short!) note about the additional impact they can make by sharing the fact that they donate with friends and family.

Knock their socks off with a great receipt

While it’s important to include the donor’s transaction details, your receipt is an amazing tool for making donors feel great about their decision to give. Include great pictures, a heartfelt thank-you message, and a brief statement about how their gift will be put to use. To really knock ’em dead, include a link to a thank-you video from someone who benefits from your organization, a board member, or fundraising staff. People are more likely to tell their friends and family about your organization if you make the giving process (and follow-up) an enjoyable one. Use tools like customized thank-you pages and receipts to give them the warm-fuzzies, then give them ways to share with their friends.

Give your donors something to brag about

Donors get excited about making a difference. Give them something to brag to their friends and family about! You can do this by really reiterating what donors’ gifts accomplished. Focus on putting the emphasis on your donor, not yourself! Tell them about something they accomplished, not something you accomplished. This boosts their sense of accomplishment and pride, reinforces their emotional ties to your work, and gives them something cool to share with their friends and family. Pretend a donor gave to a campaign you set up to raise money to build a new greenhouse. There are a few neat ways to give them something to tell their friends and family:

Show them how they can help right off the bat

On your donation form, help donors visualize what they can achieve with their gift. Set up suggested gift amounts, then include descriptions or details about what different gift sizes can do. For example, you might set up suggested donation amounts on your greenhouse campaign form to say things like: $25 buys four bags of organic potting soil! $50 buys a bolt of shade cloth! $100 buys a pane of glass! Helping donors envision what their gift can achieve gives them a concrete sense of accomplishment. A donor didn’t just give money to a campaign; a donor bought you four bags of soil. That’s something they can share!

Send your donors updates about what they achieved with their gift

In our greenhouse scenario, you might send everyone who donated $25 a picture of the completed greenhouse, plus photos of newly-potted seedlings they helped pay for. You could send a similar email to $50 donors containing a close-up of a plant under shade cloth. This kind of personalization makes donors feel like you really care about them and value their individual involvement. It also gives them something to show their friends!

Invite donors to share with their friends and family

In a follow-up email to a $25 donor, for example, you can send them something like this: “Your $25 gift bought four bags of soil, and they’ve already been split into pots and are currently filled with seedlings. These seedlings will eventually produce food we will hand-deliver to local families who can’t access fresh produce. Because of you, we have enough soil to get us to the end of the month! We’d like to raise enough money to buy organic soil that will last us for the rest of the year; do you have any friends or family you think would be interested in helping? You can get us to our goal by spreading the word about our greenhouse campaign!” This invites donors to act as an advocate and ambassador for your campaign, and it’s a great way to find new donors.

Fostering a sense of achievement in your donors is a powerful way to encourage them to share your mission with their friends and family. People love sharing their achievements! Show donors exactly what they’ve achieved by donating to you.

Let donors get creative with advocacy

There are zillions of different ways you can equip your donors to share your mission. A little experimentation with different methods will give you a feel for what your donors like (and don’t like) when they’re sharing with friends and family. Try offering opportunities like:

Get donors in the door — literally

Opening your facilities to the public, offering tours, or providing group volunteer opportunities. Send special invitations to your donors! A few weeks before the event, send them a note thanking them for their history of support and inviting them to see the difference they’ve made. Encourage them to bring a friend who might like seeing the work you’re doing! This is a great way to find new donors, and it’s also a fantastic donor retention method.

Try a peer-to-peer event

Peer-to-peer events are fundraising events that are driven by participants, not by your fundraising staff. Your staff will give participants the tools and guidance they need to raise money for your organization, and participants build and share their own fundraising pages. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to raise money, get your most active donors or volunteers engaged in fundraising, and raise your visibility in the community. It’s also a valuable opportunity to expand your donor base: because your participants are reaching out to their friends and family, they reach potential donors that would otherwise never learn about your organization.

Allow DIY fundraising

If you’re not familiar with the term, DIY fundraising is a kind of peer-to-peer fundraiser. Donors set up their own fundraising pages and raise money on behalf of your organization. Lots of people have started to set up fundraisers to mark special occasions like birthdays, weddings, or anniversaries of important events. After they set up a page, donors share that page with their friends and loved ones and raise money for your organization in lieu of gifts.


You could work yourself to death trying to increase your email list, acquire new donors, and raise your organization’s profile in the community. Alternatively, you can spend some time and energy equipping existing donors to do those things for you. Giving your donors room to get creative with how they share their passion for your mission is a great way to find new donors and reinforce relationships with the donors you have. Get donors psyched about your mission, show them the impact their donation makes, and give them the tools to share that information with the world.

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