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5 Ways to Retain Donors for Your Nonprofit



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For many nonprofits, donor retention is a significant issue. After making their first donation, nearly 60% of all donors choose to give to another nonprofit or not to give altogether, and this rate is increasing, according to AFP Global. Luckily for you, losing over half of your donor base is preventable. It's easier to keep donors than to have to find new ones. To help your nonprofit survive this downturn, we'll show you five ways to retain donors for your nonprofit.

What is donor retention?

The simple explanation: donor retention is the number of donors that return to your organization to give again. If you are the development director, board member, or event coordinator at your nonprofit, then you probably are well versed in customer acquisition. But where many organizations fail is not having a system to track what happens after the donation. This phase of the customer journey is called retention.

Should you focus more on acquisition or retention?

We believe focusing more on acquisition is more volatile to the longevity of your organization, considering that it costs five times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain the ones you have. Ultimately, it would help if you focused equally on both, but putting your resources into retention could boost returns significantly.

It's true: aiding donor engagement leads to repeat donations. To help you get started with your retention efforts, here are five tips for retaining your nonprofit donors:

The 1st Thing You Can Do: Increase Brand Awareness

First and foremost, start by building your brand in a way that has clear messaging and is appealing. Make sure to use your brand colors, logo, mission, and slogan frequently across advertisements, on your website, and any print media. When people recognize your organization, they are more likely to give and continue giving.

Social media is often one of the best ways to build brand awareness outside of in-person events. Take advantage of the digital marketing space by creating posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, to name a few. Our advice: go where your donors go and actively engage with them using your organization's personality and tone.

The 2nd Thing You Can Do: Learn Your Donors

So once you've acquired the donor, you'll need to know how they give, why they give, how they came to find your organization, where they are in the donation process, and so forth. Developing a comprehensive view of donor history is not as hard as you think. If you haven't already, focus on using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program that will help you collect, store, and analyze buyer behavior. A CPM (Customer Portfolio Management) strategy will further segment your most active customers, giving you a concrete view of each customer's potential for retention. And finally, crafting an ICA (Ideal Customer Avatar) will zero in on specific traits and habits of your donors by creating a fictitious persona resembling your ideal donor. This may end up being your first step, but avatars may expand over time, so continue to update them.

Why an ICA? Marketers use these to engage efficiently according to the proposed persona.
nonprofit consultants near me with CRM

The 3rd Thing You Can Do: Develop Authentic Emotional Connections

Make a concerted effort to make an emotional connection. People want to feel emotionally attached to your cause and your organization. By developing a strategy that keeps them interested, you establish a personal connection and rapport that can influence their giving patterns. You can't simply assume people will keep donating without facilitating a reciprocal relationship. Here's how donors get invested:

  1. Make your donors feel special - Address them by first name, remember their birthdays and other major events, use words like "friend," "humankind," and "together." Use a database-driven system to deliver content specific to them.
  2. Include donors in the conversation - Keep them updated, ask if you can share their altruism to your social networks, ask them what sort of causes they would like to get behind, host events for your donors to discuss your organization's campaigns.
  3. Personalize the process - Send them a gift or a handwritten thank you letter, give them an organization T-shirt, talk to them like a human instead of "just another donor."

You can stand out by showing your donors that you genuinely care about their experience and appreciate their donations.

The 4th Thing You Can Do: Convert One-Time Donors

This is where learning your donors and documenting their history within your organization proves worthwhile. After identifying donors who have given recently, you can quickly get them involved by following up with them on a regular and guided basis. Here is a suggested follow up sequence:

  1. Immediately send the donor a welcome email or to a thank you page, thanking them for their donation. You should include the action you want them to do next (like joining a social media group, logging into their membership, retrieving a gift, and the like). Always track their actionable responses for further segmentation later (and remember: no response is a response).
  2. 1-3 days later - Donors who haven't responded should be sent a friendly reminder to take the next step. Please don't overdo it here. If they don't take action by this time, note it but don't press the issue. You'll continue to nurture the conversation over the coming weeks.
  3. The next four weeks  - Let the donor know the campaign's progress and how their donation, along with others, has helped. Be sure to include any missed call-to-actions for donors who haven't engaged.
  4. One week before the existing campaign ends - If your campaign has a profit goal, update your donors on the amount reached. Maybe they'll be inclined to give again. Include a way for them to share the campaign so they can encourage others to give.
  5. Two weeks before a new campaign begins - Alert existing donors about upcoming campaigns that might interest them. Want to hone in on donor interests? Use that ICA as fuel and ask them during checkout or within your newsletter so you can continue sending them relevant content about your campaigns.
  6. Three months after initial signup - By now, you will know plenty about your donors, and they will know a ton about you too! Use what you know to pop the big question: Will you donate to me (again)? Ask them to join your monthly donation program.
nonprofit organizational leadership consultants

The 5th Thing You Can Do: Boost Your Reputation

While many factors play a role in donor retention, your nonprofit's reputation is arguably the most crucial factor in retaining donors. For nonprofits, a clean reputation is an indicator of success. Upholding good character will increase your organization's chances of getting more donors and keeping them. If you're making bad headlines, existing donors will be inclined to leave your nonprofit, and new ones won’t even give you a try.

Make your nonprofit available to receive reviews on public platforms (Google, Facebook, and Guidestar are the most common places). You can create positive press with the reviews you gain by placing these reviews on your website. Seeing positive reviews will attract other donors to your organization. What about negative reviews? If you receive some less-than-stellar feedback, take that as an opportunity to address the issue and correct the problem, always responding in kind. Others will applaud you for that. Turn a negative into a positive to protect your nonprofit's name!


By being strategic with your marketing and brand's reach, learning donor behavior, engaging authentically with donors, communicating with your donors regularly, and actively boosting your reputation, you can build a steady stream of donors willing to give over and over again!

Want more help with implementing a strategy to increase donor retention? Our membership program with extensive resources, training, step-by-step guides, and member support. Propel your purpose with expert help!