Asking donors to give to a nonprofit can be a hard sell. The donor doesn’t get anything in return, like a nice new mountain bike, or a mattress with a 100-night guarantee. What the donor gets is mainly emotional satisfaction—knowing that they helped make the world better in some way. The question is, how do you motivate a potential donor, and keep them on board? One way to do this is by focusing—laser focusing—on building relationships with your donors and potential donors.

Start with your employees

Nonprofit causes are very personal. The whole reason a nonprofit even exists is because someone became very passionate about an issue and decided to make it into a proper crusade, gathering other like-minded, passionate people along the way to create an organization.

These are your first relationships—your employees. Maybe you don’t think about your employees when it comes to marketing (unless they are in the marketing department) but the people who work for you can be invaluable when it comes to getting your message out there. For one thing, they’re already passionate about your cause. And they’re going to talk about it to their family and friends, and share social media posts, and basically act as your own herd of brand evangelists. This kind of enthusiasm and dedication is invaluable!

You can also tap your work talent for marketing initiatives. Use an employee story on your blog, social media page, or direct mail. This gives your donor audience a chance to see beyond the green curtain of your organization at the people making things happen. It also allows potential donors to connect to your cause emotionally.

Tell stories

How do you build a relationship with a whole list of people you don’t truly know? Sure, you have all the data on them, their age and income and other similar organizations they’ve donated to in the past. But other than taking each one to coffee, you don’t know them. And they don’t know you, or what your organization does on a deeper level.

Story telling can help create the feeling that there is a relationship between you and potential donors. Think about what happens when you read a book? You bond with the characters. You feel like you “know” them. Sometimes when you get to the end of the book, and something bad happens, you’re crushed. Or, you’re crushed that it’s over. Similarly, story telling can capture the minds and hearts of your potential donors.

There are many ways to share stories. You can share them through a fundraising direct mail campaign, which is a really great place to take advantage of this tactic because that’s where you need to connect and enhance that relationship the most. You can also share stories on your website blog and social media pages, and through email. Every communication channel gives you a chance to highlight a real life story, whether you’re focusing on an employee or someone your organization has helped. Every single one of these stories makes your cause real to people and grows that imaginary relationship bond that keeps donors on board.

Get out there!

Yes, you can do this through mailings and through social media. You can also do it by attending networking events, being involved in your own community, and by volunteering for speaking engagements. Even if you’re part of an enormous organization—even if you’re the head of it—getting out there and creating real relationships with real people and sharing your mission is still an important way to grow it. No organization is too big or too small to benefit from the power of IRL (in real life). Your passion and expertise in person is incomparable.

Relationship building is an essential part of nonprofit marketing. Whether you and your employees are building those relationships out in the real world, or you’re building them through implementing stories in your communications and creating a strong, identifiable brand voice, this is the way you connect to donors and potential donors and keep them on board.