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8 Tips for Donor Retention

Keeping donors you've got is a lot easier than finding new ones! Here are some tips that will help you hang on to them.

8 Tips for Donor Retention

Nonprofits know they need to attract new donors to increase fundraising and grow their mission, but an equally important (and beneficial) task is keeping the donors you already have. After all, keeping a donor is easier and less expensive than recruiting a new one.

Existing donors are a treasure for nonprofits. They’re dedicated to your mission and the work your nonprofit does. They have demonstrated their willingness to support you with donations and even time. With donor retention strategies, you can turn one-time or occasional donors into sustainers and even see if any of your sustainers are major gift (or corporate grant-giving) prospects.

8 Easy Ways to Retain Donors

We talked to clients with great donor retention records and gathered their best tips. See if any of these will work for your organization!

1. Personalize Your Outreach

In almost every article we write advising nonprofits about best practices, technology, fundraising, or donor engagement, we talk about personalization. It’s the most important way you can strengthen your relationship with donors! And it’s not only about calling them by name; it’s also about knowing when to appeal for a donation, how much to ask for, and how engaged a donor is.

The foundation of personalization is technology. Data can identify patterns, such as seasonal giving, and can highlight preferences (if there’s a group of people who donate on the first of every month, you know when to time your email!). Technology can be used to keep track of donor preferences as well as notes on birthdays, anniversaries, or connections to your cause. When donors feel recognized by you, they are instantly more connected and willing to engage.

2. Share Your Impact

How are donations helping your mission? Sharing regular impact stories can remind your donors that their contributions are changing something they want to change. Get granular and draw a line between donations and results. A donation-form feature that works well can be used: A $50 donation fed two families. A $150 donation saved an acre of the rainforest. Quantifying the specific amount donated allows individuals to understand the difference they can make, and including the results of slightly higher donation amounts can be the encouragement one needs to up their contribution next time.

How to share your impact? Use your newsletter, annual report, and social media channels. Share stories, case studies, photos and videos, and statistics. Put yourself in their shoes: What information would impact you the most? The goal is to communicate the value of every contribution, no matter the size.

3. Embrace Multichannel Outreach

People consume information through many different channels: direct mail, telephone, email, text, social media, sometimes radio and television. Maximizing as many of these channels as you can—using multichannel fundraising—is your best bet to share your message with a broad audience.

Most of us aren’t restricted to interacting with only one channel, even if there is one that's our preference. So should you worry about cannibalizing your fundraising? Nope. According to NextAfter, donors who receive emails and direct mail give about 25% more annually. Seeing a message on many channels impacts donors more and can lead to larger gifts.

Tying this into personalization, ask your donors or mine the data to uncover which channels are the most effective with different audience segments. When you send them impactful, personalized messages on the channels they prefer, you maximize smart communication strategies.

4. Regularly Recognize Donors

And not just the biggest givers! Create an inclusive donor recognition plan that identifies objectives, donor segments, recognition methods, giving levels, and tracking to ensure contributions are recognized promptly.

Common recognition methods include direct mail, email campaigns, phone calls, and spotlights on social media accounts. You can highlight donors on your website or in a newsletter.

Don’t forget to apply the same recognition plan to volunteers. They’re donors, too, but of time (and sometimes also of money). Showing appreciation to anyone supporting your organization will inspire them to continue, or even strengthen, their commitment.

5. Offer Opportunities for Involvement

Often, donors will click to donate and that’s the end of it—but you’d stand out from the crowd if that wasn’t the end of it. What are some other ways you can involve donors? You can invite them to events, ask them to volunteer, or even seek input on decisions. They might welcome an invitation to tour your space, have lunch with a board member or team member, have the chance to roll up their sleeves and sort supplies, or do another helpful hands-on task.

If you have the resources, plan a member appreciation event at which you thank them, but don’t ask for more donations. Seek input during strategic planning meetings. Hold town-hall-style meetings, even virtually, during which you update stakeholders on your work and listen to any feedback they offer. Surveying your donors can provide fascinating insights that you might miss if you don’t ask direct questions.

The more you can include your supporters, the more they’ll be engaged and likely to stay around.

6. Make it Easy to Give

Consider the different ways a donor can support your nonprofit online and offline. Go through each process by donating a small amount to ensure it is smooth and easy and that there’s immediate appreciation built into it.

Many channels lead to your online donation form, so be certain you’ve optimized it. Minimize your required fields, keep plenty of white space, lead with your value proposition, and have a clear call to action. Offer different ways to give, such as virtual wallets, and make it easy for supporters to toggle to a monthly gift.

If you offer a phone number for donations, call and test it. This person-to-person interaction should be warm and friendly and quick. A texted appeal should take just a few clicks to complete. If you can’t accurately assess the experience, ask a friend to donate or solicit feedback from some loyal donors.

7. Be Transparent with Finances

Trust is vital to any relationship; attracting and keeping donors would be impossible without it. Be as transparent as you can. If you don’t want information publicly available, gate it behind your donor portal so active donors can access it. Send “State of the Nonprofit” reports with income and expenses and details on your programs.

Demonstrating fiscal responsibility and earning the trust of your donors will pay dividends far beyond financial gains. We all know how easy it is to quickly text a number to donate $10 to an organization we know and trust. Removing that barrier will certainly help your fundraising, but it will also help deepen your relationship with your donors and aid in retention.

8. Personalize Stewardship of Major Donors

While intentionally stewarding all donors is vital, assigning team members to manage the relationships of your largest donors is also advisable. Major donors are relative and unique to your organization. Evaluate your resources, choose the donors who should be included, and then develop customized engagement plans.

A key element to this plan will be one team member the donor can call with questions or concerns. It means a regular cadence of reaching out and sharing news about your programs or impact stories. It means soliciting feedback and offering perks, such as a table at an event, branded swag, or a lunch-and-learn with your team. While donor retention across the board is important, those who give more significantly require a strategic plan to keep the relationship strong.

Effective Donor Retention Keeps Your Nonprofit Growing

Adding new donors is always a smart growth strategy, but holding onto existing donors is easier and more beneficial to your nonprofit. Combined, you have a strong base that is growing organically and bringing in fresh new donors so you can start the process all over again.

If you want more donor retention ideas or are curious about why some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits trust CharityEngine, let us know! If you’re not in the market for new software but enjoy getting ideas from us, sign up for our newsletter. We’d love to have you around!

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