9 Smart Strategies to Retain Donors

Digital fundraising — including online donation tools, mobile giving, crowdfunding, and social media — has made it easier than ever to reach out to people willing to give your organization money. But attracting a donor is just the beginning. Ideally, you want to retain the donors you already have. Donor retention is still an issue. In general, it’s more common to get a one-time donation than a repeat one. In fact, less than half of donors give money a second time. The percent who do, commonly called repeat donors, has hovered around 45% for years.

But why?

Por qué, you might ask. Why is it important to retain donors instead of getting new ones? This is key: it’s usually harder (and more expensive) to find new people as opposed to keeping the ones you already have. While technology has made donor cultivation easier, it hasn’t helped us better stay in touch with donors who are already in our circle. Did you know only about 40% of nonprofits actually send some sort of acknowledgment to those who’ve donated? No thanks. Literally. No wonder the donor turnover rate is so high!

Continued communication with donors is important. Read on to find out why and to learn several strategies for better donor stewardship.

Use proven ideas to retain donors and practice strategic stewardship

1. Use a template.

Fundraising experts say that letters of acknowledgment should be sent within three days after receiving a donation. Whether you send a letter by email or snail mail is not important — ensuring the letter is received quickly is. Make the letter writing process easier by having a standard format ready to go. And be sure to refer to the donor by name — no generic salutations! Need some tips on writing effective thank you letters? Check this out for inspiration.

2. Use the phone to follow-up.

After (promptly) sending an initial acknowledgment, set aside time a few weeks later to make phone calls to those who’ve donated. Ideally, these calls are made by the executive director, a board member, or a trustee.

3. Get to know your donors.

Begin to establish a relationship by acknowledging a donor’s most meaningful personal days, like a birthday or an anniversary. If you learn what their other interests and hobbies are, use this information to keep in contact with them, including sharing articles or events that might be of interest.

4. Keep them updated!

Donors want to know how their gift has made an impact. Share updates on programs they’ve supported, the progress of campaigns they’ve donated to, or simply any new developments at the organization.

5. Don’t forget social media.

Social media is a great tool to raise funds, so why not spend a little time using these same platforms to thank donors? A digital fundraising consultant can be extremely helpful with integrating digital into your donor stewardship efforts. We have a few tips! How about a quick Tweet thanking an individual donor, or a Facebook post that thanks everyone at the same time. If you really want to be creative, make a short video and post it to YouTube.

6. Respect your donors’ wishes.

Not all donors want to be acknowledged publicly. If you learn that this is not wanted, don’t do it under any circumstances.

7. Hold a donor appreciation event.

During the event, give attendees an insider view of your organization by meeting staff, volunteers, or board members. In addition, if there is a specific client with a feel-good success story, perhaps donors could meet that person as well. If you’re not able to hold a separate event, be sure to invite them to another event and send them a special, personalized invite that recognizes their contribution.

8. Reconsider sending gifts to donors.

Here’s something that might surprise you: giving donors gifts might turn them off. Research has shown, when you remind donors of their deeds, it can make them feel like they’ve done a selfish act. This could make them donate less money, instead of more. That is the opposite effect that you’re striving for!

9. Have a plan.

There are so many ways to convey your appreciation to your donors; it might be helpful to develop a donor stewardship plan. Consider the size and history of your organization while creating this plan; for example, larger organizations might already have major donors and may need to focus their communication accordingly. A newer, smaller organization may need to focus solely on developing a pool of repeat donors.

Plan how you will show excellent stewardship to your donors

Nonprofits couldn’t keep their doors open or serve clients without a strong base of donors, so continued communication with them is essential. While how we communicate with them may change, one thing remains the same — donors like to be acknowledged! Thank them quickly and often and your organization will have more than a loyal donor, but will also gain a true partner and supporter of your work as well.