Your supporters. They can be your best asset―raising money to sustain you, creating an army for your cause and influencing foundation and corporate funders. But how many can say that you know supporters? What do you really know about them? Maybe you’ve asked what their household income is or if they are male or female, but have you asked what connects them to your cause?

We mail, email, send out newsletters and wait for the contributions to roll in. Problem is, the relationship is one-sided. We spend so much time talking through conventional channels that we forget to actually listen. Sound familiar? Don’t get dumped: learn to communicate!

Like most nonprofits, you are probably missing a tremendous opportunity. Your supporters have placed a great deal of trust in and spent a lot of time with you. They feel so moved by what you are doing with your organization that they have spent time on your website, made contributions and signed up for a newsletter.

Given that they’ve responded to you in the past, they may be inclined to engage even more if asked. They may, for example, be willing to tell you about themselves and how to serve them better. Yes, I wrote “serve.” After all, what they are actually asking is to receive information on how their dollars are being used, to become involved with the mission and to learn how they can create more impact. They are saying that your mission is important, validating the work that you do and sharing empathy for those you serve. They are, in fact, aligning with your cause; it’s up to you to seize the opportunity to its fullest extent.

Download the 2012 winter issue of the free npENGAGE digital magazine to read the full article on how to make meaningful connections with supporters and watch the video below of James Heskett discussing “donor owners” at bbcon 2012.