The Mission-Driven Playbook: Managing Donor Relationships

6 min readSep 7, 2021


Donors are the lifeblood of most mission-driven organizations. If you can’t get donors on board and keep them around, you’ll have fewer resources to dedicate to your mission. Fewer resources means less impact. The relationships you build with donors is key to unlocking sustained impact.

Our team has experienced this first-hand, with so many of us coming from the non-profit sector. Lab5 consultant Liz Kennedy previously worked in fundraising at The Adventure Project during a time of transition. The organization had grown to thousands of donors, while maintaining a core group of supporters who had been there from the beginning. Most of them had a relationship with the organization’s leadership. But as the organization rapidly grew, leadership couldn’t reasonably continue to cultivate those relationships to the same extent. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day.

On the other hand, The Adventure Project couldn’t afford to lose this core group. The fundraising team needed to take over the relationships and to do so, data and automation were key. If they could get the right information about these donors in the right place, and make it simpler to stay in touch, they could build upon these relationships at scale.

“Individual donations are usually the result of an emotional connection — to the cause, the people at your organization, or the people being served by it. As a fundraiser your job is to build that emotional connection among your donor base.” — Liz Kennedy, Consultant at Lab5

Whether your organization relies on a mass of small donors, a few high net worth individuals, grants, or a combination, building and maintaining donor relationships is imperative to your success. Here’s how to best manage those relationships with Salesforce.

Building a Donor Database

First thing’s first: get all the information about your donors into a single place. Nothing is useful floating around in disparate emails, spreadsheets, docs, and systems.

Salesforce’s Non-profit Success Pack (NPSP) is one way to enable your organization to track individual donors. It can also offer key information about the donor’s relationship to the organization, aggregated in one place.

With standard Salesforce functionality, you can build donor profiles, connect families of donors in households, and link donors to the companies where they work. Fundraising teams can then understand how donors relate to one another to leverage those relationships.

Key information can be tracked on the donor profile. You can store details like location, age, and profession as well as unique data points specific to your donor base. Different members of your team can log additional notes from phone calls or emails with donors, to provide insight into the reason that donor is passionate about the cause. Then, using simple integrations, you can track donation details and history right on the donor profile. This data can empower your fundraising team to generate more donations in support of your work.

“Every piece of information is like a piece of the puzzle. With enough pieces, we can unlock more support for the cause.” — Liz Kennedy

All information captured in Salesforce can be reported on, so your fundraising team can gain insights about your donor base. Maybe there are demographic trends that help you to understand messaging resonance, or maybe you want to see all leads for an upcoming campaign. There are a million ways to leverage the information in your donor database, but it’s only possible with everything in a single place.

Personalizing Communication

Next: make it personal. Personalized email communication is proven to improve fundraising performance. Something as simple as including the donor’s name in an email has been shown to drive 270% more click throughs.

Salesforce’s marketing tools — like Marketing Cloud and Pardot — make it easy to do this at scale, while maintaining a personal touch.

Marketing tools enable you to send mass emails to your donor base, and set up drip campaigns to keep your donors engaged. You can create a unique experience for current and potential donors that brings them relevant, personalized updates at exactly the right time.

Salesforce marketing tools also make it easy to build professional, branded email templates, A/B test different messaging or designs, and generate and nurture your donor leads.

Plus, with Salesforce you can measure and report on every aspect of marketing campaigns directly within the platform. You’ll know what’s working with your audience, where you need to improve, and how you should move forward.

Optimizing the Donor Experience

Your team has done the work to build the relationships with your donors, to share the stories of your impact, and to leverage data to build deeper connections. The next step is making the actual donation. And there are plenty of pitfalls that can impact your donors at this stage.

Research into 630 organizations across nine countries showed that 20% of the time, a donor could not complete a donation. Something as simple as an error or outage can impact your credibility and push your donors away.

User experience is everything when it comes to digitally engaging donors. So, aside from just making sure that everything works (a no brainer, we know), you have an opportunity to create a unique experience for your donors that sets you apart and drives more donations.

With Salesforce’s Experience Cloud you can create interactive, secure online spaces that allow your stakeholders to engage with your organization whenever and however they want to.

With a logged in or public portal, the opportunities to engage your donors are limitless. For example, you can build a donor community where donors communicate with each other, your team, or even your program’s beneficiaries. You can showcase your work by sharing impact data directly with donors in meaningful ways. You can save your team time by providing self-service solutions to donors, like access to their donation history, or the ability to update their contact information.

But most importantly, with Experience Cloud you can use all of your CRM data to personalize your donor’s experience with your organization — show them their personal impact, bring them opportunities to support the cause based on their interests, and much more. Then, make it as easy as clicking a button to donate exactly when your donor is ready.


“When we can provide a positive experience for our donors we are able to build meaningful relationships easier. And then we can see the impact almost immediately. Those people become more invested in the organization’s success and want to continue to be a part of it.” — Liz Kennedy

If you lead or work for a mission-driven organization, you know how important it is to build and maintain relationships with your donors. Salesforce gives you the tools to manage your relationships at scale, unlocking more funding for your cause and driving greater impact.

At Lab5, we have a team of seasoned consultants who come from mission-driven organizations. We understand the importance of building relationships, the challenges many organizations face, and the tools and tactics that can drive the greatest impact. If you’d like to talk to us about how Salesforce can impact your mission-driven organization, get in touch.




Lab5 works with companies around the world to make their CRM programs successful and their employees’ jobs easier.