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4 Tips for Retaining Donors


Great job! You just got four new donors to give to your cause! Did you know that it’s likely that three of these donors will never make another gift to your organization? Repeat donations have been steadily dropping across U.S. charities. Not only does this result in a potential decrease of funds but a lot of wasted time and resources. Many nonprofits are starting to look at the retention of donors in the same strategic way they view donor acquisition. Getting someone to support your cause takes time and money. Doesn’t it make sense to keep those donors who are already on your side coming back so you don’t have to put forth so much effort chasing new donors?

Here are some top tips on how to nurture and retain your existing donors.

Say “thank you”

This seems like a pretty basic step in donor stewardship, but many organizations don’t do it promptly or personally. A thank you can be a letter, phone call or email, as long as it specifically recognizes the donor’s gift and tells them how it will be used and support your organization’s work. Be creative with your thank you—could a beneficiary of your organization write a note or could you produce a quick thank you video?

Build a relationship

Your connection to donors shouldn’t end after the thank you note. This is just the beginning of your relationship. New donors are like making new friends, you need to take the time to get to know them and find out what motivates them. Why did they give to your cause? What are their preferences in communicating with you in the future? Have you answered any questions or requests they made at the time of their gift? Use surveys or events to get to know your donors so that you can understand what motivates and inspires them to give. Many organizations have a specific first time donor plan for building a relationship with someone new to the family.

Communicate authentically

Once you know a little more about your donors you can build a strategic communications plan that addresses their questions, inspires them and further connects them to your organization. Good communication strategies include a planned and well-delivered annual stream of communications. This may be four times a year for your organization or it may be monthly. It doesn’t matter if it is a magazine, e-newsletter or flyer, as long as you’re sharing stories and information with your donors. Are you showing the impact of their gift and what has been achieved as a result of their donation? Demonstrate the change that was only possible through their gift. Donors want to feel connected to the organization and as if they are part of the change.

Ask their opinion

Often times we just treat all donors the same and expect them all to behave identically. Donors are all different and if we can take the time to ask their opinions and involve them in stewardship, then we will be more likely to keep them as donors. Perhaps you need a Donor Advisory Board or a group to help with communications. It doesn’t have to be a formal structure, but getting donors into your office and asking their opinions on your plans, communications and outreach will give you valuable market data and engage donors in a special way. If people feel they are part of something and appreciated, they are more likely to continue to support your work. Who knows, your donors could come up with your next big fundraising idea!

Hopefully you can use these tips to keep your donors and build a body of long term, committed supporters. If you need help devising a donor retention plan, Resource Associates offers a variety of strategic planning services that can help ensure you achieve your mission.

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