Anything that lasts requires time and attention.

Your car won’t continue to run for years if you avoid oil changes. A house doesn’t stand for decades on end without proper attention and maintenance.

Relationships, too, are more likely to stand the test of time when they exist in a nurturing environment where effort is put forward to show that relationship matters.

A 50-year-marriage doesn’t happen by accident.

When you start a donor relationship, you should think about the long-term goals of that connection. If a one-time donation is truly all you need, then you may as well stop reading this post — but that wouldn’t be a very sustainable approach.

A donor doesn’t give again unless an organization spends the time properly cultivating the donor relationship, leading to trust, respect and love (platonic, of course).

When you first start interacting with a new donor, there is a lot of “courting” involved. You tell your story, show off some of your great accomplishments and ask them a little bit about their own story.

You woo potential donors with coffee meetings, fancy fundraising galas and other events. (All these steps are likely part of you Fundraising Funnel — if you don’t know what that is, learn more!)

And then they donate. And they fall into your donor base bucket. And then what?

Just like in a marriage that lasts 50 years, you need to stay active in the relationship and continue to show the ways you care.

Here are 3 great tips to cultivating a strong donor relationship guaranteed to last.

Regular communication and gratitude is key. Only talking to your donors when you need something from them isn’t the best way to build a relationship that makes the other feel valued.

When there is exciting new detail about your organization, share it simply to tell people about it — not to ask for funding for it. Did you move into a new space? Share pictures on Facebook and in an e-mail newsletter, and invite donors to an open house so they can get acquainted.

Of course, if someone offers a donation — take it! But you don’t always have to be asking for things when you’re interacting with the people who support you.

Find a balance, and ask when you really need it. If you’ve properly built the relationship, it’ll be an easy ask and an easy answer.

Build your relationships with better story telling.

A Case for Support is a great tool for your organization! Connect with me to learn more.

That said, open communication is a two-way street. Ask your donors for feedback, seek help in making decisions (when possible), understand your donors’ priorities and reasons for supporting your cause.

What does this look like? Here’s a simple example. At my nonprofit, Positive Every Day Cancer Foundation, Inc., we created a care package to supply to families when they arrive at the hospital after their child has been diagnosed and admitted. We wanted a name that would represent our organization and stand out uniquely.

At a recent fundraiser, we presented attendees with two names and asked them to vote on their favorite.

This simple participation can make them feel like a part of your cause instead of just someone who needs to surrender hard earned dollars to make a difference.

Not to confuse you, but don’t let them think you’re never going to ask for anything again. If you wait too long between asks, people might begin to feel like you’re able to live on without them. They are taking your existence for granted, and your relationship starts to turn into a one-way street in their direction.

Ask when you need to, and don’t always expect a yes. Donors will give again because it is requested of them, but it will also need to be the right time in their lives personally.

What are your best tips for building donor relationships?