Somehow, I got tasked with writing a blog post on “loving your donors,” neatly timed for Valentine’s Day. Since I’m spending that special day with a few hundred experts on that topic, I thought I’d ask my colleagues at the 2014 Nonprofit Conference, aptly titled “Building Stronger Relationships with your Donors,” for their opinions. Without further ado, here are a few lessons learned from the Conference, currently being held in snowbound Washington, DC.

Lesson #1:  SHOW UP for your donors. This lesson was apparently lost on the Opening Keynote Speaker of the Conference – the head of the US Postal Regulatory Commission — who neglected to show for her speech. Apparently the Commissioner decided not to embrace the whole “Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night…” element of the Post Office’s brand promise. By not putting on her mucklucks and braving the weather, she left a key constituency – one that actively lobbies for support of the Postal Service – feeling unloved.

Which got me thinking. Are we really there for our donors? Are you monitoring your social media pages and responding to queries? Do you have designated resources to respond to donor emails? Is it easy for donors to find and use the “Contact Us” area on your website? We all spend so much time thinking about what we’re telling our donors. Let’s be there for them and spend some time listening and responding.

Lesson #2:  BE THERE for your donors – wherever THEY are. There is a Valentine’s Day commercial out there where some guy out to dinner with his significant other has to send a text to get her to look up from her phone to see the gift he has gotten her. Here at the DMA Conference, it really is all about our donors’ obsession with their phones. The latest benchmarks from Blackbaud are out and they are reporting that Open Rates for emails are holding, but Clickthrough Rates are dropping, in large part because a significantly greater portion of our donors are reading our emails on their phones. If you want to keep your donors engaged, take a page out of restaurant guy’s book and be mindful of the medium your donor is on to get their attention and take action. That means making your emails – and donation and advocacy forms – mobile friendly or (better yet) responsive!

Lesson #3: Make Your Intentions CLEAR.  Subtlety is overrated in digital relationships (as it often is in real life relationships). So attendees were urged to embrace strong “Call to Action” elements digital campaigns. Anticipating the challenges nonprofit fundraisers sometimes have in convincing website staff that strong clear ‘buttons’ enhance rather than detract from the user experience, speakers encouraged attendees to invest in testing to make their case. It’s hard to argue when donors show how much they love an easy to follow experience with cold hard cash!

Lesson #4:  REKINDLE Old Flames with new technology. With nonprofits being pressed to do “more with less,” organizations are realizing they need to invest more in reactivating past donors rather than acquiring new ones. In a session on “emerging technologies,” attendees heard about how new telemarketing technologies like Echo that help keep files growing while ensuring an awesome donor experience. Rather than traditional telemarketing where callers read from a script, Echo uses sophisticated pre-recorded WAV files that callers ‘mix and match’ in reinstatement calls. Callers actively listen to donors and then hit a button on their keyboard to call up the perfect response. This results in a more consistent message (no more rogue callers going ‘off script’), and higher pledge rates and average gifts. We heard live calls using this technology and it was tough to tell that it wasn’t a real live person interacting with the donor (It was kind of like a 21st century Cyrano de Bergerac.) And yes, there was a WAV file that asks if the donor would provide their email address for future love notes.

So that’s it from Day One at the DMA where so many of your colleagues are learning great ways to show love to their donors!