Tips For NPOs: How To Maintain Donor Relationships

Donor relationships
  • Save

Maintaining good relationships with donors is crucial for nonprofit organisations’ (NPOs) success. Donors provide most of the financial resources necessary for the organisation to carry out its mission and programmes, and by nurturing these associations, NPOs are better positioned to secure larger or recurring donations.

South Africa had 266 531 registered NPOs at end-September 2022, according to the Department of Social Development, which was still processing 5 273 new applications and had deregistered 466 organisations at end-September 2022. (Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2022.)

Inyathelo, a 20-year-old nonprofit trust which helps other NPOs to become sustainable, lists several potential benefits when NPOs nurture their relationships with funders:

  • Credibility and trust: Donors want to feel confident that the NPO  is responsible and accountable, and that their contributions make an impact. This also strengthens the potential long term investment the donor may be considering.
  • Word-of-mouth promotion: Satisfied donors can become powerful advocates for an NPO. They are more likely to share their experiences with friends, family and colleagues, potentially attracting more funding.
  • Feedback and improvement: Donors often bring valuable insights and perspectives, enabling NPOs to better understand their supporters’ expectations and adapt their strategies. This can lead to improved programmes and operations.
  • Loyalty and engagement: Donors who feel connected are more likely to become more involved, possibly volunteering their time and expertise, and advocating for the cause.
Inyathelo acting Executive Director, Feryal Domingo, lists seven service and stewardship elements which can help grow the relationship between an NPO and its donors. A funder has the right to:
  1. Know your organisation: Ensure your donors understand your NPO’s history, its achievements, and how it has improved the lives of its beneficiaries. Keep donors updated on your governance, staff and financial situation. This includes being honest about challenges and how you plan to address them.
  2. Know how their funds will be used: Have a written contract in place, with details of how you will use the funding and report on your activities. 
  3. Transparency and access: Be willing to open your premises and financial books for checking, and be transparent about all activities.
  4. Acknowledgment: There are many ways to recognise donors, such as including them in your annual report, newsletters and website. Set up events to celebrate programme milestones. Present them with a certificate of appreciation, or nominate them for an award.
  5. Respect and confidentiality: Always respect your donors’ boundaries and do not share their personal information with others without permission.
  6. Professional behaviour: Present well-prepared documents and materials at meetings and send reports on time.
  7. Receive answers to questions: Donors have the right to ask questions about the NPO’s work, staff, governance, finances and  impact. Keep donors informed by inviting them to your offices to meet project managers and staff, asking them to a community workshop, or to meet key beneficiaries.

In conclusion, maintaining good relationships and communication with donors helps to build trust and credibility, foster long-term partnerships, gain valuable feedback, and benefit from word-of-mouth promotion.

“Donors are your partners in development, and if you want them to continue supporting your organisation, you need to ensure these relationships thrive,” says Domingo. “Share successes, involve donors in activities, and report back regularly.”

Funders are aware that NPOs operate in extremely demanding environments. “If you are experiencing problems with a programme, tell your donor what is happening. Well-informed donors are more likely to continue supporting you, and help find solutions, if you are honest and transparent with them.”

For more visit: