Love Thy Donor: 5 Ways to Increase Donor Retention

It has become a fairly common factoid that around 60% of new donors only give once to that cause—however, showing love to your donors can be one of the driving factors behind donor retention. When you boil it down, nonprofit organizations are here for one thing: benefiting their cause. Duh, right? Well it’s easy to forget that in order to work toward any cause, NPOs need donations. If donations are the lifeblood of NPOs, it makes sense that we would show love to donors whenever we can.

Oftentimes nonprofits get wrapped up in the minor details and lose sight of the bigger picture—how they’re benefiting the community and how the community is helping benefit them. One thing remains in this cycle: the importance of donors can not be overstated. There is no one “correct” way to show your donors love, but the most important thing is that you remember how vital they are. Let your actions toward your donors be a natural outflow of love based on your gratitude for their generosity.

Here are five ways to show your donors love to raise donor retention:

Thank Donors for the Same Thing You Asked For

Thanking donors is the first and most important step to loving your donors. Thanking them personally and for the same thing that you asked for is key. If you ask them to contribute to help low-income families, don’t thank them for helping end hunger. And with that, a “Dear, (insert donor’s actual name)” goes a lot further than putting “Dear Donor,” when sending thank-you emails or letters. Say thanks—and say thanks often. Also, don’t forget that you can ask for things other than money.

Put as Much (or More) Thought in the Thank-You as the Initial Ask

This step is relatively simple. When asking for donations, we often spend a lot of time jumping through hoops to make sure we’re asking in an appropriate way, and in a way that will make people want to give. Just keep a mental note of how much time and effort you put into asking for the donation so you can put that much more thought into thanking them for their help.

Show Donors What They Made Possible with Their Donation

If there’s one thing that keeps people donating it’s letting them know they made a difference. Use specifics on where exactly their money went. There have been viral donation campaigns that end in somewhat of a scandal because the money people donate doesn’t always go where they think it’s going, or people just simply don’t know what an organization did with their help. Donations are vital to keep NPOs alive in general, but when a giving campaign is underway let the donors know that they played a big part in making a difference.

Be Humble and Personal. Not Braggy or Corporate

As Tom Ahern put it, don’t put the donor up in the stands while you play this great game of creating social change. Give the credit to the donors. To keep on the theme of your NPO as a “team,” don’t think of donors as fans applauding with their checkbooks. Instead, include them and let them know that they are in fact a part of your team. Ahern tell us to let donors know that, “with your help we did this amazing thing… And without your help we couldn’t have done it.” The payoff to being personal and humble with your donors vs. braggy and corporate is a jump in donations. In contrast to businesses, NPOs get to be that much more personal with those supporting us. Make the most of that potential by getting involved in the community and getting excited about what makes your supporters excited.

Communication is Key

Keep those who support you in the loop on what’s going on within your organization’s life. It’s easy to fall into the trap of not communicating with supporters, just like that relative who only calls when he needs something. Being transparent with your supporters shows genuinity, while only communicating with donors during giving campaigns may lead them to question their importance, or what happened to the money that they donated last month. Let them know you notice them and that you care that they care. This may mean a series of emails planned between appeals or even creating a blog that people can keep up with to see what’s going on. However it looks for your organization, keeping people included can be the difference between someone donating to your NPO or another.

If I were your nonprofit mother I would be teaching you the golden rule as “Love your donor MORE than yourself.” If you put them first they will notice, which will result in loyal donors. As a disclaimer, there is something to be said about personability when loving your donors. These are 5 simple tips on how you can begin to show love, but they aren’t the only 5 ways. Adapt to this idea of showing love within your organization and do so with your own voice and in a way that effectively reaches the audience you’re receiving donations from.


Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

December 12, 2014

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