Donors are a vital part of any nonprofit—their support aids the overall impact of your mission. But donor retention rates continue to diminish year after year. In fact, donors who gave in the first quarter of 2021 and again in the first quarter of 2022 fell by 6.2%, according to the Foundation for Philanthropy 2022 First Quarter Fundraising Report.
Donor retention vs. continual donor acquisition can be a more impactful strategy to support your development efforts. This is because acquiring donors is a costly endeavor—donor acquisition often represents a substantial portion of any nonprofit’s overall marketing budget. And the return on investment for donor acquisition may feel defeating—in some cases, the cost to acquire a donor can be 50–100% more than the donation itself.
Invest your time in donor retention vs. donor acquisition. Here are some strategies to consider.
Donors value being informed about how their contributions are making a difference and how the organization uses the funds. Communicate with your donors through regular updates, newsletters, and impact reports.
- Updates: Schedule a time on your calendar to send regular updates to donors. Choose a frequency you can realistically follow because consistent updates help build relationships.
- Newsletter: Use your newsletter to inform your audience about recent donor successes. This also connects readers to the donor and highlights their support.
- Report: Allot a section in your annual report to highlight donations—whether quarterly, biannually, or annually. This gives donors a chance to see how their donation is helping your organization strive toward the goal. It’s also an opportunity to detail the effects of the problem they’re addressing.
Show your appreciation for your donors by recognizing their contributions publicly, such as through social media or on your website, and privately, such as through personalized thank-you notes or phone calls.
- Social media: This is an excellent avenue to showcase donor contributions. Social media is all about storytelling, so create visually appealing and engaging content that tells your story. A bonus is when users opt to share your content (user-generated content). This type of content acts as a testimonial for your organization and helps broadcast your mission beyond your immediate audience.
- Thank-you notes: Saying thank you should be obvious, but sending a thank-you note is often forgotten. When possible, aim for a personalized, handwritten thank-you note to make supporters feel instantly connected. If that isn’t feasible, use segmentation to send different groups of donors customized thank-you emails.
Engage your donors in meaningful ways that align with their interests and passions. This provides a unique opportunity for supporters to interact personally and immersively. Look for continuous opportunities for donors to volunteer, attend events, or participate in decision-making processes to boost engagement.
- Events: Plan a special donor appreciation event—like a gala, dinner, or auction—to recognize and engage donors.
- Volunteer: Invite donors to volunteer for special events or to be on committees. This helps deepen their involvement in your mission and offers a unique perspective.
- Decision-making: Ask donors for their feedback. One area to consider is your communication strategy—specifically, how does your communication messaging align with your mission? Receiving this type of feedback eliminates barriers in the donation process and facilitates easier giving.
Donors are more likely to keep giving when they know how their money is making a difference. Help them understand the impact their contributions are having on your mission and the people you serve by sharing stories and data that demonstrate the difference their support is making.
- Email campaign: Create an email campaign that has an emotional appeal—whether the emotional appeal is heartwarming or humorous, donors are more inclined to respond to stories they can relate to.
- Interactive video hangouts: Host a video hangout with donors and discuss exactly how their donation is making an impact.
- Photo collages: Post photo collages to your social media channels to express your appreciation.
Being transparent increases donor trust and loyalty by demonstrating your ability to be ethical and responsible with donations. Identify how your organization uses donations and how funds are allocated. This includes providing clear and concise financial information, such as annual reports and audited financial statements.
As you continue to plan your donor retention strategy, combine these tactics to help deepen your donor relationships and earn their loyalty.